- By Adam Durbin & Gareth Evans
- BBC News
The US Coast Guard has opened an investigation into the causes of the Titanic disaster.
Chief investigator Cpt Jason Neubauer said the priority was to recover the debris and that precautions would be taken if human remains were found.
Speaking on Sunday, he said the investigation could recommend civil or criminal charges.
On June 18, the Titanic exploded and sank, killing all five on board.
Cpt Neubauer told reporters in Boston that the US Coast Guard has convened its top-level investigation.
He said he would try to establish what caused the disaster and make recommendations to prevent future tragedies. He added that it will be conducted in collaboration with the authorities of Canada, UK and France.
The investigation is currently in its early stages and efforts to recover the wreckage are ongoing. So far, five large fragments have been found 3,800m (12,467ft) below the surface in a large debris field near the Titanic’s bow.
Cpt Neubauer said investigators would take “all precautions” if they found human remains.
He said the investigation could lead to stricter regulations and safety recommendations for submarines, but he could not confirm how long it would take to complete.
Cpt Neubauer said once all the evidence is gathered, investigators can conduct a formal investigation to obtain witness testimony.
He said interviews were already being conducted in the Canadian city of St. John’s, where Titan’s support ship Polar Prince launched and towed the submarine in the North Atlantic.
Speaking to reporters, US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger was asked about the cost of the search and rescue operation, but declined to comment.
He said it is not a policy to charge for search and rescue and that the service does not cost human lives to rescue people in the “dangerous environment” of the sea, adding that “we always respond to the call”.
“We conduct disciplined operations with warranted risk to risk our resources and lives to save others. That’s who we are.”