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Titanic sunk by steering blunder, author says

Titanic sails out of Southampton, England, at the start of its doomed voyage, April 10, 1912.
AP
Titanic sails out of Southampton, England, at the start of its doomed voyage, April 10, 1912. (AP)

The sinking of the Titanic was triggered by a fundamental steering mistake, the granddaughter of the ship's second officer said, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Louise Patten said that her grandfather Charles Lightoller, who survived the 1912 disaster, covered up the error to protect the finances of the liner's owners and the jobs of his colleagues, the Daily Telegraph reports.

"They could easily have avoided the iceberg if it wasn't for the blunder," Patten told the Daily Telegraph.

"Unfortunately, he panicked," Patten told CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips Thursday of steersman, Robert Hitchins. "He got this order from the officer on the bridge to turn the bow to the left, and the steersman reverted the system."

New Titanic Images

Patten, whose claim is chronicled a new book "Good as Gold," said that there were two different steering systems on the ship, requiring turning one wheel one way and the other in the opposite direction.

After the steering mistake, Patten said, "they only had four minutes to change course and by the time (first officer William) Murdoch spotted Hitchins' mistake and then tried to rectify it, it was too late."

Patten's grandfather was not on duty when the liner struck the iceberg, but he attended a final meeting of the ship's officers before the Titanic sunk. According to Patten, at that meeting, the chairman of Titanic's owner, the White Star Line, persuaded the captain to continue sailing, which sped up the sinking of the ship.

"If Titanic had stood still, she would have survived at least until the rescue ship came and no one need have died," Patten said.

According to a study released earlier this year, it took 2 hours and 40 minutes for the Titanic to slip beneath the waves.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com