Stockton Rush, Pilot of the Titan Submersible, Dies at 61

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Stockton Rush, the chief executive and founder of OceanGate and the pilot of the Titan submersible, was declared dead on Thursday after his vessel was found in pieces at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, near the rusting wreck of the R.M.S. Titanic. He was 61.

Mr. Rush oversaw finances and engineering for OceanGate, a privately owned tourism and research company based in Everett, Wash., which he founded in 2009. In 2012, he was a founder of the OceanGate Foundation, a nonprofit organization that encouraged technological development to further marine science, history and archaeology.

Mr. Rush first looked skyward for adventure. In 1981, when he was 19, he was believed to be the world’s youngest jet-transport-rated pilot.

If the sky was the limit, though, it was too confining for Mr. Rush.

“I wanted to be the first person on Mars,” he told Fast Company magazine in 2017.

Ineligible for Air Force pilot training because of poor eyesight, he said, he abandoned his dream of becoming an astronaut. Interplanetary travel didn’t seem economically viable in the foreseeable future. But he saw potential in underwater travel, and he said he was willing to take on risk and bend the rules to achieve his goals.

“I mean, if you just want to be safe, don’t get out of bed,” he said in an interview with “CBS News Sunday Morning” last year. “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.”

Richard Stockton Rush III was the scion of one of San Francisco’s most famous families. He was descended on his father’s side from two signers of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush and Richard Stockton.

He was born on March 31, 1962, in San Francisco. His father is chairman of the Peregrine Oil and Gas Company in Burlingame, Calif., and the Natoma Company, which manages apartment and other investment properties in and around Sacramento. His grandfather was the chairman of the shipping company American President Lines. Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco was named for his grandmother.

The Davies family’s inherited wealth was derived from Ralph K. Davies, who began at Standard Oil of California as a 15-year-old office boy and rose to become the youngest director in the company’s history.

Stockton, as Mr. Rush was known, graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from Princeton University in 1984. He received a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business in 1989.

During summer breaks, he served as a DC-8 first officer, flying out of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for Overseas National Airways. The year he graduated, he joined the McDonnell Douglas Corporation as a flight test engineer on the F-15 program and was named the company’s representative at Edwards Air Force Base on the APG-63 radar test protocol.

Before founding OceanGate, he served on the board of BlueView Technologies, a sonar developer in Seattle, and as chairman of Remote Control Technologies, which makes remotely operated devices. He was also a trustee of the Museum of Flight in Seattle from 2003 to 2007.

In 1986, he married Wendy Hollings Weil, a licensed pilot, substitute teacher and account manager for magazine publishing consultants. She became the director of communications for OceanGate.

Her grandfather, Richard Weil Jr., was president of Macy’s New York, and she was the great-great-granddaughter of the retailing magnate Isidor Straus and his wife, Ida, two of the wealthiest people to die when the Titanic sank.

The aging Mr. Straus, a co-owner of Macy’s, refused to board the lifeboat while younger men were being prevented from boarding. Ida Straus, his wife of four decades, declared that she would not leave her husband, and the two were seen standing arm in arm on the Titanic’s deck as the ship went down.

Information on Mr. Rush’s survivors was not immediately available.

In his CBS News interview, Mr. Rush acknowledged that it was prudent while exploring the ocean at depths of thousands of feet to avoid fish nets, overhangs and other hazards. But, he said, safety concerns could also be a drag on a swashbuckling career in which risk paid returns not only in profits but also in unforgettable experiences.

“It really is a life-changing experience, and there aren’t a lot of things like that,” he told Fast Company. “Rather than spend $65,000 to climb Mount Everest, maybe die, and spend a month living in a miserable base camp, you can change your life in a week.”

His trips in the Titan brought him the adventure he craved.

“I wanted to be sort of the Captain Kirk,” he said. “I didn’t want to be the passenger in the back. And I realized that the ocean is the universe. That’s where life is.”

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