American engineer and businessman Richard Stockton Rush III passed away on June 18, 2023. He was born on March 31, 1962. He was most recognized for co-founding and serving as CEO of the deep-sea exploration company OceanGate.
Stockton Rush worked for McDonnell Douglas as a flight test engineer on the F-15 program after graduating from Princeton University. Later, he had several positions with BlueView Technologies and the Museum of Flight. Guillermo Söhnlein and Stockton Rush founded OceanGate in 2009; after Söhnlein left the company in 2013, Rush was the sole founder.
He perished on June 18, 2023, along with four other people in the Titan submersible explosion while trying to explore the Titanic wreck aboard OceanGate’s Titan submersible.
On March 31, 1962, in San Francisco, California, Stockton Rush was born into a prosperous family. He was the fifth child to be born to Ellen Rush (née Davies) of San Francisco and Richard Stockton Rush Jr. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ralph K. Davies served as his maternal grandfather. The Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco is named after his maternal grandmother Louise Davies, a philanthropist. He was descended from both Richard Stockton and physician Benjamin Rush, who both signed the Declaration of Independence, through his father.
He was interested in aviation and aquatics as a boy and had aspirations of becoming an astronaut and the first person to set foot on Mars. He started scuba diving at the age of 12 and graduated to commercial flying at the age of 18.
Later, he was informed that his visual acuity would preclude him from flying for the military.
He received his diploma from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1980. Stockton Rush graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering in 1984. He earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989.
Prior to obtaining his MBA, Stockton Rush spent a brief period working as a flight-test engineer for McDonnell Douglas following his graduation from Princeton. Later, Rush worked for the San Francisco company Peregrine Partners as a venture capitalist.He relocated to the Pacific Northwest in 1989 to operate the Kirkland, Washington-based business Remote Control Technology. Later that year, he allegedly built an experimental plane that he flew for the rest of his life.
Stockton Rush enjoyed scuba diving as a hobby and frequently dove in the Puget Sound. After his first submarine excursion in British Columbia in 2006, Rush developed an interest in ocean research at shallower depths. Rush started considering buying a submersible but was unable to do so after learning that there were only less than 100 privately owned submarines in existence. Instead, he built a small submersible using plans that a retired U.S. Navy submarine commander gave him. Stockton Rush built a boat that was 4 meters (13 feet) long and could dive to a depth of 10 meters (33 feet). After building his little submersible, he continued to look for a submersible to buy. He even tried to acquire Steve Fossett’s submersible after Fossett passed away in 2007, but he was unsuccessful.
Stockton Rush started looking into the possibility of starting his own submarine business in 2007. He thought that undersea ocean tourism would have a sizable market and would offer a substitute for the extensive time and specialized equipment needed for scuba diving. Guillermo Söhnlein and Rush established OceanGate in 2009. Rush claims that the company’s objective was to use commercial tourism to fund the creation of new deep-diving submersibles that would enable other business endeavors like resource extraction and disaster relief. In 2013, Söhnlein left OceanGate.
Stockton Rush discovered, when conducting market research for OceanGate, that the private market for underwater exploration had failed as a result of a negative public perception of risk and more stringent regulations governing the operation of tourist submarines and submersibles. These justifications, in his opinion, were “understandable but illogical,” and the perceived risk was significantly higher than the real risk. Rush specifically criticized the US statute known as the Passenger Vessel Safety Act of 1993, which forbade diving below 150 feet and restricted the construction of ocean tourist vessels. Rush claimed that this rule “needlessly prioritized passenger safety over commercial innovation.”
Rush led an excursion in the San Juan Islands in 2018 with scientists and researchers to study the red sea urchin and the sand lance’s habitat. After multiple setbacks, Rush launched his deep submergence company in 2021. Prior to the June 2023 dive, Stockton Rush was sued in Florida by a couple who claimed that their 2018 dive to the Titanic had been continually postponed and cancelled. The couple contended that Stockton Rush’s conduct prevented them from receiving a refund. The couple decided to dismiss their lawsuit against Rush after his passing.
When the Titan, an OceanGate-owned and -designed submersible, lost touch with the surface ship MV Polar Prince on June 18, 2023, Stockton was on board to view the Titanic debris. For search and rescue efforts, the United States, Canada, and France supplied water and air support. On June 22, OceanGate declared that it believed Rush and the other four passengers had “sadly been lost” after discovering a debris field approximately 490 meters (1,600 ft) away from the Titanic’s bow. The debris was consistent with a catastrophic failure of the pressure hull, an implosion, resulting in the instantaneous deaths of everyone on board, the United States Coast Guard later announced at a news conference.
Rush talked on his thoughts on what he saw to be overly cautious safety measures in a podcast from 2022 with CBS reporter David Pogue. “You know, safety just kind of becomes pure waste at some point,” he said. Simply stay in bed, drive around in your car, or do nothing at all if you just want to be safe. You will eventually take some risks, therefore the decision is truly a risk versus return one. I believe I can accomplish this without following the guidelines just as safely.
In 1986, Rush wed Wendy Weil, a pilot and teacher. Two kids were born to the couple. Through their daughter Minnie Straus Weil, Wendy Weil Rush is a great-great-granddaughter of Isidor and Ida Blun Straus, who both perished in the sinking of the Titanic. At OceanGate, she served as the communications director.