Around two-thirds of the more than 2,200 people on board the RMS Titanic died after the ship sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912.
The sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912 is widely considered one of the world’s worst maritime disasters. But how many people died on the Titanic?
As the great ship plunged into the icy depths of the Atlantic Ocean early on the morning of April 15, 1912, about 1,500 people died. In some ways, the sinking killed indiscriminately — many wealthy passengers lost their lives. But overall, the Titanic death toll largely impacted those in third class.
Here’s everything you need to know about how many people died on the Titanic, from the casualty count to the divisions by class and the stories of those who perished.
How Many People Died On The Titanic?
At 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean while crossing from England to New York. For an agonizing two hours and 40 minutes, the ship sank into the frigid waters.
So, how many people survived? And how many people died on the Titanic? Of the 2,240 people on board, more than two-thirds died. The official count by the U.S. committee that investigated the sinking of the Titanic placed the death toll at 1,517. Of those, 832 were passengers, and 685 were crew members.
Indeed, about 76 percent of the Titanic crew died during the sinking, including all 35 engineers who perished while keeping the ship’s lights blazing and its radios working. The ship’s captain, Edward Smith, also went down with the Titanic after allegedly telling his men:
“Well boys, you’ve done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you. You know the rule of the sea. It’s every man for himself now, and God bless you.”
The ship, the biggest of its age and believed to be “unsinkable” was ill-prepared for disaster. Indeed, it had just 20 lifeboats available — even though it could safely carry as many as 64.
But while the lack of lifeboats certainly added to the Titanic death toll, the deaths were also sharply divided by class.
RMS Titanic Deaths By Class
Anyone who wanted a ticket on the Titanic had a variety of options. They could purchase a first-class ticket for £30 (about $4,000 today), a second-class ticket for £12 (about $1,600), or a third-class ticket for between £3 to £8 (about $415 to $1,100).
The experience onboard was vastly different for the three classes. First-class passengers, for example, had a gym, a swimming pool, and enjoyed extravagant meals. And first-class passengers were also most likely to survive the Titanic sinking.
About 62 percent of first-class passengers survived, compared to 43 percent of second-class passengers and just 25 percent of third-class passengers.
This was, in part, because third-class passengers had further to go to reach the lifeboats. Immigration laws also demanded that they stay below deck.
But women (and children) of all classes had high survival rates. Some 70 percent of them managed to survive the sinking, whereas just 19 percent of men did.
So, who were the people behind the Titanic death toll?
The Victims Of The Tragic Disaster
More than 1,500 people died on the Titanic. But a number like that does little to illustrate the devastating human cost of the sinking.
Though many first-class passengers survived the Titanic, the sinking claimed both rich and poor. John Jacob Astor IV was one of the richest men in the world when he went down with the ship. And Thomas Andrews, who designed the ship, also perished.
Likewise, Isidor Straus, the co-owner of Macy’s and a former congressman, died when the ship went down. His wife, Ida, refused to leave his side and died alongside him. (They were depicted in the 1997 film as an elderly couple lying side by side as the ship sank.)
Certainly, some people weren’t as well-known or wealthy. The Goodwin family purchased eight third-class tickets for themselves and died when the ship sank, including their 19-month-old baby. And Sinai Kantor, a 34-year-old Russian Jew, also lost his life in the sinking — although his pocket watch was later recovered and returned to his wife, Miriam.
So, how many died on the Titanic? The official American count is 1,517. But each person who died had a unique story and a unique reason for boarding the doomed ship in April 1912.
Their stories live on both through the Titanic survivors and through the poignant Titanic artifacts which scatter the seabed.
After reading about how many people died on the Titanic, discover how the ship’s baker, Charles Joughin, survived in the frigid water for hours. Or, look through these intriguing shipwrecks from history.