Editor’s Note: At 3 p.m. on June 22, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that all passengers aboard the Titan were believed dead after debris was found. This piece has been updated.
Stockton Rush ’84 was aboard the Titan submersible missing off the coast of Newfoundland since Sunday, on its way to see the wreckage of the RMS Titanic. Rush is also the co-founder and CEO of the company behind the voyage, OceanGate. On June 22, the Coast Guard announced that the vehicle is believed to have imploded and all aboard are believed to be dead.
Rush graduated with a B.S.E. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) in 1984. For his thesis, he designed a high-speed ultralight aircraft.
He was one of five people on board, including Hamish Harding, a British businessman; Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a French maritime expert; Shahzada Dawood, a British-Pakistani businessman; and Dawood’s 19-year-old son, Suleman.
Rush comes from a family with strong ties to Princeton. Alumni include his father, Richard Stockton Rush, Jr. ’53; grandfather, Richard S. Rush ’27; and his wife, Wendy Rush ’84, who is descended from passengers on the Titanic. Rush’s ancestor and namesake Richard Stockton Class of 1748 signed the Declaration of Independence, and Stockton’s father donated land as the University was founded. Rush’s son, Richard “Ben” Rush ’11 also graduated in the MAE department and built a robotic arm for submersible vehicles for his thesis.
Rush’s time at Princeton also involved a series of arrests. In 1983, Rush was charged by police with drunk driving and allegedly drove a Volkswagen into the Dinky, the train that connects Princeton University to Princeton Junction. In 1981, when Rush was a freshman, he was arrested for possession of a “controlled and deadly substance.”
Rush showed the Titan submersible to CBS Sunday Morning in 2022 and touted its safety.
“There are certain things that you want to be buttoned down,” Rush told CBS correspondent David Pogue. “The pressure vessel is not MacGyver at all, because that’s where we worked with Boeing and NASA and the University of Washington. Everything else can fail, your thrusters can go, your lights can go. You’re still going to be safe.”
Boeing, NASA, and the University of Washington have all denied a role in the design and testing in reporting by CNN.
At the same time, Rush maintained that risk was inherent in the enterprise, telling Pogue in a separate interview, “You know, at some point, safety just is pure waste. I mean, if you just want to be safe, don’t get out of bed. Don’t get in your car. Don’t do anything.”
“At some point, you’re going to take some risk, and it really is a risk/reward question. I think I can do this just as safely by breaking the rules,” he continued.
Rush told Smithsonian magazine that he had wanted to be an astronaut, but was told his eyesight wasn’t good enough to be a military pilot. After graduation, he moved to Seattle as a flight-test engineer for F-15 fighter jets at McDonnell Douglas, and later went to business school at UC Berkeley.
“I didn’t want to go up into space as a tourist,” Rush told Smithsonian. “I wanted to be Captain Kirk on the Enterprise. I wanted to explore.”
The search has ended after the Coast Guard announced that “a debris field was discovered within the search area.”
Charlie Roth is a head Data editor and senior News writer for the ‘Prince,’ focusing on local politics coverage.
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