Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) blamed the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday after military forces said they found parts of the lost Titan submersible on the seabed. It might have been different, he said, if leadership “had just acted sooner.”
Crenshaw made the comments shortly after the Coast Guard said Thursday that a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) spotted a debris field “consistent with the catastrophic loss of its hyperbaric chamber.” The Wall Street Journal later reported that the Navy had recorded sounds suggestive of an explosion or implosion shortly after contact with the Titan was lost on Sunday, but a Navy official later said it would have been “irresponsible” to assume at the time that the Titan’s passengers and the pilot had died.
But Republican lawmakers claimed that the international search effort appeared to be an “epic failure of leadership” that may have reached into the White House and the upper echelons of the Coast Guard and Navy.
“I’ve heard a lot of concern from people, the civilian side, involved in this,” Crenshaw said in a statement to reporters Thursday. “You know, we’ve got to look into this and see what’s true and what’s not. … What appears to be the case is an epic leadership failure. I don’t know where exactly this leadership failure lies. Is it the White House, the Coast Guard, the Navy? I’m not sure.”
The discovery ended an international race against time in hopes of recovering the lost ship before its oxygen supply ran out. The Titan lost contact with its mother ship on Sunday, about two hours after it took off with five men on board to view the wreck of the Titanic, which lay about 2½ miles at the bottom of the North Atlantic.
Crenshaw told Fox News later Thursday that he was concerned about the timing of the rescue effort, particularly in light of reports of a thumping noise being picked up by search and rescue teams. The congressman said a Magellan submarine and a special remote-controlled vehicle should have been dispatched to the region immediately to help find the ship faster.
“Now it’s important to note that if you had just deployed these funds, they would have arrived at the deployment site no later than Wednesday morning,” he said. “This morning they finally deployed this ROV, the only one that can actually go that deep and see what’s down there. It’s deployed down there and the wreck was exactly where it was expected to be.”
“So what’s the mistake here? The mistake is not putting all the options on the table,” he added.
Crenshaw went on to ask whether the Coast Guard had acted on the Navy’s assumption that the ship had imploded, rather than that it was merely a matter of rescue.
“It begs the question: Could this have been resolved differently if leadership had just acted earlier and actually put options on the table, rather than just assuming yes it doesn’t matter because they’re dead?” he said.
OceanGate Expeditions, the company that owns Titan, released a statement on Thursday calling those on board, including the CEO, “true explorers with a keen adventurous spirit.”
“Our hearts go out to these five souls and each of their family members at this tragic time,” the company said. OceanGate said Thursday it would have no further comment on the incident.