OceanGate Threatened to Sue Pilot Who Claimed He Was Fired Over Safety Concerns

  • OceanGate threatened to sue a former employee unless he withdrew allegations, per The New Yorker.
  • David Lochridge claimed he was fired in retaliation for raising safety concerns about the sub.
  • Lochridge was fired in 2018 after a meeting with OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, where they discussed safety.

OceanGate threatened to sue and destroy the reputation of a former employee unless he withdrew allegations that he was fired from the company in retaliation for raising safety concerns about its submersible, The New Yorker reported.

David Lochridge, OceanGate’s former chief pilot, was fired in January 2018 after a meeting with OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush. The meeting was about safety concerns Lochridge raised in a report about the submersible, which was previously called the Cyclops II, the report said.

The Titan submersible imploded last week, killing Rush and the four other people on board.

Lochridge told a former OceanGate advisor, Rob McCallum, in March 2018 that he had contacted the US Department of Labor and told the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that he was fired in retaliation for raising safety concerns, per The New Yorker.

He said that he had also sent them a copy of his report, it said.

After OSHA reached out to OceanGate to say it was looking at the firing as a whistle-blower-protection matter, OceanGate’s lawyer Thomas Gilman sent Lochridge a court summons.

The court summons informed Lochridge that if he did not withdraw his claim with OSHA and send OceanGate $10,000 in legal fees, OceanGate would sue him, as well as try to destroy his professional reputation and accuse him of immigration fraud, The New Yorker reported.

Lochridge received the summons while he was at his father’s funeral, according to the outlet.

Gilman also told OSHA that Lochridge had deliberately gotten himself fired because he “wanted to leave his job and maintain his ability to collect unemployment benefits,” it said.

Lochridge was first hired by OceanGate in 2015 as its director of marine operations and chief pilot, The New Yorker reported.

In his safety report in January 2018, Lochridge pointed to alleged issues that were either defects or unproven, The New Yorker reported. He said he wanted there to be “an official record” of concerns he had previously raised verbally.

During the subsequent meeting, according to OceanGate’s lawyer, the two parties found themselves at an impasse, with Lochridge uncomfortable with OceanGate’s testing protocol and Rush “unwilling to change the company’s plans,” the New Yorker reported.

Two weeks after he was fired, Lochridge wrote to McCallum, an expert and former OceanGate advisor who also expressed safety concerns, and said “that sub is an accident waiting to happen.”

Lochridge said “There’s no way on earth you could have paid me to dive the thing,” The New Yorker reported.

Lochridge’s hiring, report, and firing all came before the vessel made any deep sea trips, with the company making its first successful visit to the Titanic in 2021.

Lochridge ultimately withdrew his claim with OSHA, after legal battles, threats of deportation, and struggles to find enough money for the legal fight. For a while the head of another submersible company funding much of his efforts, the report said.

Insider has previously reported on the legal wranglings between Lochridge and OceanGate, including the fact that Lochridge claimed in court filings in August 2018 that he was wrongfully terminated, and that the case was settled out of court in November 2018.

OceanGate repeatedly said that its submersible was safe before the implosion. It had made at least three successful trips to the Titanic, though multiple trips were delayed and canceled and former passengers said there were issues like communication being lost.

Rush, in old interviews, dismissed safety regulations as being a hindrance to innovation.

Experts told Insider’s Tom Porter that the submersible avoided having to work under many safety rules by operating in international waters.

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