Of the 2,228 on board, about 700 people survived the sinking of the Titanic. The low survival rate is mainly due to the lack of lifeboats on the ship, although other factors caused problems as well. Fear of passengers to get into the boats and be lowered down to the icy sea and distraught families who did not want to be separated also contributed to the disaster.
The number of people who survived the 1912 Titanic sinking is estimated at around 700 of the original 2,228 on board. A total of 337 passengers were in first class, 285 in second class and 721 in third class. In addition, there were 885 crew members.
Most of the survivors were women and children from the first and second class. This is logical, since first and second class passengers had accommodations closer to the deck and were able to get there more quickly, while third class passengers were housed in a lower area of the ship called steerage. Women in the crew also fared better than women in third class. Overall, only about 20 per cent of the men survived compared with 74 per cent of the women and 52 per cent of the children. All the children from first and second class survived, compared with only 34 per cent of those in third class.
The Titanic had the capacity to hold 32 lifeboats, but only 20 were actually on board. Management had decided that too many lifeboats would detract from aesthetics, and since the ship was supposed to be indestructible, they assumed lifeboats would not be needed. It should be noted that a decision like this was not uncommon for passenger ships and met Board of Trade regulations.
Several hundred more people could have been saved, but the lifeboats were not filled to capacity. First, some distraught families refused to be separated by the preferential treatment being shown to women and children. Second, many passengers were too fearful to get into a lifeboat in the dark night and be lowered 65 feet down to the icy water, especially since many believed the Titanic was invincible.
In addition, two of the four emergency collapsible boats floated away. One of these filled with water, and although about 20 people were able to get into it, at least half of those died from hypothermia before a lifeboat was able to come to their rescue. The second floated away upside down and was used as a life raft by about 25 people, mostly crew members.
Everyone who survived the disaster was on a lifeboat of some sort, including about 10 people who were brought onto lifeboats after jumping into the water.
The Titanic may not have sunk if the captain and the White Star Line chairman had decided to stay put after the ship hit the iceberg and wait for rescue. However, according to crew members, the chairman was anxious to get the ship to New York and prove the Titanic was unsinkable. The forward motion of the boat caused further extra damage which increased the flooding, and the pumps could not handle that much water.