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Billionaire is planning to take two-person sub to depths of Titanic

A billionaire is planning to take a two-person submersible to the depths of the Titanic to demonstrate that the industry is safe.

Five people were killed in June when the Titan submersible, built by OceanGate, suffered a catastrophic implosion.

Now Larry Connor, an Ohio real estate investor, wants to rehabilitate the sector’s public image following the deaths.

“I want to show people worldwide that while the ocean is extremely powerful, it can be wonderful and enjoyable and really kind of life changing if you go about it the right way,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

He has teamed up with Patrick Lahey, one of the world’s most experienced submersible operators, and co-founder and chief executive of Triton Submarines.

“Patrick has been thinking about and designing this for over a decade. But we didn’t have the materials and technology,” Mr Connor said.

“You couldn’t have built this sub five years ago.”

They are due to make the voyage in the $20m (£15.65m) Triton 4000/2 Abyssal Explorer.

The 4,000 refers to the depth it can purportedly dive to in metres – about 200m lower than the wreck of the Titanic, which rests at 3,800m.

Mr Lahey said Mr Connor called him just a few days after the deadly implosion.

“We had a client, a wonderful man,” Mr Lahey told WSJ.

“He called me up and said, ‘You know, what we need to do is build a sub that can dive to [Titanic-level depths] repeatedly and safely and demonstrate to the world that you guys can do that, and that Titan was a contraption.'”

Those behind the project are keen to emphasise the difference between classed and unclassed submersibles.

Triton and other major manufacturers use third-party maritime-classification societies to ensure that their vessels are classed – meaning they are safe and meet all regulations.

Mr Lahey said he was close friends with Paul-Henri Nargeolet, one of the Titan passengers and a deep sea explorer he knew as PH.

“Sometimes I wonder if I should have got more out in front of the story, because I was chomping at the bit,” Lahey told WSJ.

“But I was very emotional. It still baffles me beyond words that PH was onboard.”

Craig Barnett, Triton’s director of sales, said the firm had delivered 18 submersibles in the past 15 years, and five in the past three.

He also added that before the OceanGate tragedy, Triton was working on 15 different projects – but that one disappeared almost instandly.

“We had a $4 million sub we were building for a family’s yacht,” he said, “and the wife pulled the plug on it.”

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