Another billionaire—a real estate mogul and astronaut—is planning a submarine dive to Titanic despite OceanGate implosion that killed 5 last year

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An Ohio billionaire is planning a deep-sea dive to the wreckage of the Titanic in 2026, with the help of a submersibles company that specializes in ultra-deep diving equipment.

The voyage by Larry Connor, the founder of luxury real estate investment firm the Connor Group, and Patrick Lahey, the founding partner of Triton Submarines, will happen three years after the doomed voyage of OceanGate’s Titan.

In June 2023 five people—OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, businessman Shahzada Dawood and his teenage son Suleman, billionaire entrepreneur Hamish Harding and explorer Paul-Henry Nargeolet—died in the implosion of the Titan sub at around 3,500m below sea level.

The loss of the deep-water vessel prompted a huge search in the North Atlantic Ocean, around 400 miles south of the Canadian coastline. Wreckage from the Titan was found on the ocean floor by remote-controlled underwater search vehicles in the weeks after its disappearance.

While the OceanGate incident sent shockwaves through the diving community it hasn’t put off everyone—particularly those who want to prove that expeditions to Titanic can be done safely.

In fact, Connor called Lahey just days after the Titan imploded, with the proposal to build a vessel which could reach the depths of the sunken ocean-liner and demonstrate the technology is on offer to those who will take it.

Successful trips to the Titanic aren’t a new phenomenon—just ask film director James Cameron who has made the trip in a submersible more than 30 times. But after Titan, Connor wanted to rebuild trust telling the Wall Street Journal: “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.”

Connor, a keen philanthropist reportedly worth $2 billion according to Forbes, added the sub he and Lahey will be traveling in couldn’t have been built a decade ago: “We didn’t have the materials and technology.”

The entrepreneur, who also has a penchant for driving race cars, said he wasn’t without fear—he’s just not scared of the depths of the ocean. “I almost hit a deer [last night],” he told the WSJ. “I was going probably 60 miles per hour. That was scary.”

But after 10 years of development, the Triton team has built a craft the business says can travel to 4,000m below sea level—200m deeper than the resting depth of the 1,000-acre debris field of the Titanic. The acrylic submersible is named the Triton 4,000/2 and seats two passengers in a transparent cockpit at the front of the vessel—per the WSJ, it costs $20 million.

While Washington-based OceanGate—which has now suspended operations and exploration—had something of a spotted history when it came to safety whistleblowing, Triton Submarines has been behind 17 world record-breaking dives. It has provided equipment for TV shows such as David Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet II’ and NatGeo’s ‘Return to Titanic.’

Representatives for Connor and Triton Submarines did not respond to Fortune’s approach for comment.

Who is Larry Connor?

Larry Connor was one of the co-founders of a property business after his own name which launched in 1992. At the time it had $400,000 in seed funding to buy three apartment complexes in Dayton, Ohio.

Since then the company has grown to manage more than $5 billion in assets and works across 18 regions in the U.S., from Florida to Arizona. The result of such growth has lead to Connor’s $2 billion net worth at the age of 74.

Connor also made headlines during the pandemic when a stock market rally meant he made $1.6 million in eight days—all of which he gave to his employees. In 2020 Connor gifted that cash in bonuses ranging from $2,000 to $9,000 specifically for “non-highly compensated” staffers.

Connor, a father of three, also isn’t new to exploration—be it on Earth or into space. In 2021 he and Lahey traveled to the Mariana Trench, the deepest point on Earth, before Connor went on to become the first person to travel the depths of the ocean and space in one year.

That’s because in April Connor also piloted the world’s first all-private mission to the International Space Centre and was in space for 17 days.

The project with Axiom Space saw Connor and three other crew travel in the Axiom Mission 1 to carry out scientific experiments and technology demonstrations. At the time, Connor said: “I feel like our training prepared us for the logistics of space travel and the research for which we were responsible. And I feel like some of my previous endeavors prepared me for some of the unknowns that come with space travel. But I don’t think there’s anything that can truly prepare humans for the sights and feelings that come with circling the globe every 90 minutes.

“This was a humbling experience. I hope we’ve played a role—however small—in allowing future generations to have similar experiences.”  

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