Former Sub Passenger Says Waiver Mentions Death 3 Times on First Page

Former Simpsons showrunner Mike Reiss described the lengthy waiver signed for OceanGate warning him of the major risks involved for his three explorations.

By Hayley Santaflorentina Jun 23, 2023 3:44 PMTags
Watch: Missing Titanic Sub: 5 Passengers Presumed Dead

New details on what it's really like being on an OceanGate expedition continue to emerge following news that the missing submersible likely imploded on the way to the Titanic wreckage.

Former Simpsons showrunner Mike Reiss has gone on four OceanGate trips, including one to the Titanic, which involved signing a lengthy waiver beforehand.

"It is always in the back of your head that this is dangerous, and any small problem will turn into a major catastrophe," he told ABC News on June 21. "There's a long release. You sign a waiver that mentions death three times on the first page. It's just that they've thought of everything. They want to make sure you know exactly what you're getting into."

And on all four dives he took in an OceanGate submersible, each lasting 10-hours, the sub lost contact with the main ship.  "Every time they lost communication," he explained, "that seems to be just something baked into the system."

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The 63-year-old also described navigation in the submersible, which consists of only two fans that propel the sub, and how the lack of GPS meant the crew searched for the Titanic for three hours despite landing a mere 500 yards away from the wreckage.

Ocean Gate / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

And while Reiss says he respects and admires what OceanGate does as a company, he admits this should be a warning for the continuation of extreme tourism, like deep sea and space exploration.


"It should be a wakeup call for everyone that things can go wrong," he said. "I'm sure they're doing their very best to keep their passengers safe, but things will go wrong. There will be an incident like this at some point."

On June 18, the U.S. Coast Guard launched a massive search-and-rescue mission for the sub, carrying five people on board, shortly after its disappearance. However, officials confirmed during a press conference on June 22 that rescuers found debris from an external part of the submersible "consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber."


OceanGate released their own statement regarding the tragedy and its five victims—company CEO Stockton Rush as well as passengers Hamish Harding, Paul-Henri Nargeolet, Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood.

"These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world's oceans," the statement read. "Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew."

"This is an extremely sad time for our dedicated employees who are exhausted and grieving deeply over this loss," the company continued. "The entire OceanGate family is deeply grateful for the countless men and women from multiple organizations of the international community who expedited wide-ranging resources and have worked so very hard on this mission. We appreciate their commitment to finding these five explorers, and their days and nights of tireless work in support of our crew and their families."

Keep reading to learn more about the five passengers aboard the Titan's final voyage. 

Shahzada Dawood & Son Suleman Dawood

On June 18, 2023, a deep-sea submersible Titan, operated by the U.S.-based company OceanGate Expeditions and carrying five people on a voyage to the wreck of the Titanic, was declared missing. Following a five-day search, the U.S. Coast Guard announced at a June 22 press conference that the vessel suffered a "catastrophic implosion" that killed all five passengers on board.

Pakistani-born businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood, both British citizens, were also among the victims.

Their family is one of the wealthiest in Pakistan, with Shahzada Dawood serving as the vice chairman of Engro Corporation, per The New York Times. His son was studying at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

Shahzada's sister Azmeh Dawood told NBC News that Suleman had expressed reluctance about going on the voyage, informing a relative that he "wasn't very up for it" and felt "terrified" about the trip to explore the wreckage of the Titanic, but ultimately went to please his father, a Titanic fan, for Father's Day.

The Dawood Foundation mourned their deaths in a statement to the website, saying, "It is with profound grief that we announce the passing of Shahzada and Suleman Dawood. Our beloved sons were aboard OceanGagte's Titan submersible that perished underwater. Please continue to keep the departed souls and our family in your prayers during this difficult period of mourning."

Stockton Rush

OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush was the pilot of the Titan. The entrepreneur—who founded the research company in 2009 in Everett, Wash.—had long been interested in exploration. Rush, 61, previously said he dreamed of becoming the first person on Mars and once said that he'd "like to be remembered as an innovator."

In addition to leading voyages to see the remnants of the Titanic, Rush had another surprising connection to the historic 1912 event: His wife Wendy Rush is the great-great-granddaughter of a couple who died on the Titanic, Ida and Isidor Straus.

Hamish Harding

British billionaire Hamish Harding confirmed he was a part of the mission in a June 17 Instagram post, a day before the submersible went into the water and disappeared.

"I am proud to finally announce that I joined @oceangateexped for their RMS TITANIC Mission as a mission specialist on the sub going down to the Titanic," he wrote. "Due to the worst winter in Newfoundland in 40 years, this mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023. A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow."

Harding—the chairman of aircraft company Action Aviation—said the group had started steaming from St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada and was planning to start dive operations around 4 a.m. on June 18. The 58-year-old added, "Until then we have a lot of preparations and briefings to do."

His past explorations included traveling to the deepest part of the ocean in the Mariana Trench, telling Gulf News in 2021, "It was an incredibly hostile environment. To travel to parts of the Challenger Deep where no human had ever been before was truly remarkable."

The Dubai-based businessman also circumnavigated the Earth by plane with the One More Orbit project and, last year, took a trip to space on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin New Shepard rocket. Harding shared his love for adventure with his son Giles, described as a "teen explorer" on his Instagram.

Paul-Henri Nargeolet

As for the fifth member, a representative for French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet told the New York Times that he was a passenger on the Titan, with Harding also referencing him on Instagram as a member of the team. 

The Times described him as a maritime expert who was previously part of the French Navy. The 71-year-old was a bonafide Titanic specialist and has traveled to the wreckage 35 times before. Nargeolet served as the director of RMS Titanic, Inc., a company that researches, salvages and displays artifacts from the famed ship, per the outlet. 

Alongside fellow passenger Hamish Harding, he was a member of The Explorers Club, founded in 1904.

The Titan

As Harding noted in his post, the submersible—named Titan—was a part of an OceanGate Expeditions tour that explores the wreckage of the RMS Titanic, which infamously sank in 1912.

The company expressed its sympathies to the families of the victims. "These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world's oceans," OceanGate said in a statement. "Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew."

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