Everyone has a cousin or a boyfriend’s sister or a friend of a friend who claims to have almost been in, say, the Twin Towers during 9/11, or having narrowly escaped the jaws of death through a twist of providence that saved them from certain doom. On Sunday, a few days after news broke that the missing Titan submersible that had captivated the world had imploded and claimed five lives, YouTube giant MrBeast became the latest person to claim proximity to disaster by posting that he too had almost been on one of the vessel’s final trips.

“I was invited earlier this month to ride the titanic submarine, I said no,” MrBeast, aka Jimmy Donaldson, tweeted to his more than 21 million followers. “Kind of scary that I could have been on it.” To corroborate his claim, Donaldson added a screengrab of a text message purportedly sent from the person inviting him onto the vessel, which read simply, “Also, I’m going to the Titanic in a submarine later this month. The team would be stoked to have you along.”

The response to Donaldson’s tweet was fairly mixed. While some, such as Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian, expressed their relief that Donaldson had declined the invite, others questioned the veracity of his claim to begin with. (The message in question was in blue, seemingly indicating that it was sent by Donaldson rather than received by him.)

Though diving 13,000 feet to the remains of a ship that sunk over a century ago certainly is not outside the realm of possibility given the extreme nature of Donaldson’s content (previous videos are titled “I Survivied 50 Hours in Antarctica” and “I Paid a Real Assassin to Try and Kill Me”), we may never know for sure whether he actually may have been a passanger on the doomed submersible, as a representative for Donaldson did not immediately return a request for comment. However, he is far from the only person to make such a claim in the wake of the disaster.

British millionaire Chris Brown, a friend of victim Hamish Harding, gave an interview to the U.K. tabloid the Sun saying he was supposed to board the ill-fated submersible, only to back out after learning that the nine-and-a-half-foot vessel was operated by “computer game-style controllers”; a Nigerian politician also claimed on Instagram that he had fielded an invite from Harding, but had refused due to being “tied down with national duties.” Documentarian and former actor Ross Kemp also claimed he had turned down the opportunity to board the vessel to make a film last year, after his production company expressed concern over it not meeting safety standards.

YouTuber Jake Koehler, aka DALLYMYD, also posted footage of himself on a previous mission with OceanGate founder Stockton Rush and adventurer Paul-Henri Nergolet, both of whom died on the vessel last week; while he had planned to embark on a deep-sea dive, he says, the trip was ultimately canceled due to poor weather conditions. “Who knows, maybe we would have left that platform and maybe we would have imploded,” Koehler said in his video. An influencer named Karine Smith also posted a video on TikTok purporting she had been booked for that trip, though comments were widely split between people who thought she was joking and those outraged she could make such a claim (or somewhere in between — “yo darm lie but I enjoy your story,” one person wrote. Smith did not immediately return a message requesting clarification.)

Indeed, for a select group of individuals (seemingly, those with a hefty investment portfolio and/or a large and monetizable social media following), it seems it has become somewhat of a trend to claim proximity to the Titan submersible implosion: as one person on Twitter wryly claimed, such a narrative has become “the 9/11 story time for rich people.”


It’s certainly not unprecedented for people to claim to have had close brushes with high-profile disasters (see: the incredibly maudlin listicles featuring celebrities like Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, and Sarah Ferguson, who were either booked on a doomed flight or were supposed to be in the Twin Towers the morning of 9/11). Yet in this case it seems a little bit unusual, as the passengers of the Titan submersible were roundly derided on social media as reckless, overly entitled billionaires as the story unfolded. It’s a bit perplexing as to why someone like MrBeast, who has faced endless criticism for his attention-grabbing stunts and splashy cash giveaways, would want to claim proximity to a disaster that has become synonymous with untrammeled hubris and greed.

Now that the sad fates of the passengers have been officially revealed, the massive interest in the story will likely start to wind down (save for the already-slated documentaries and podcasts obsessively recounting the incident). What is less likely to dissipate, however, is the eternal desire for clout.