Rear Adm. John Mauger, the First Coast Guard District commander, gives an update on the search efforts for five people aboard a missing submersible approximately 900 miles off Cape Cod, on June 22, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. Remnants believed to be of the Titan submersible were found approximately 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic on the sea floor, according to the US Coast Guard, and all five occupants are believed to be dead. Image: Scott Eisen/Getty Images A
gruelling and “incredibly complex” five-day search operation was called off after debris from the missing Titan submersible
, carrying five tourist explorers of the RMS Titanic shipwreck, was found.
According to the US Coast Guard, pieces of the OceanGate-owned submersible indicated evidence that the vessel had faced a ‘catastrophic implosion’ and all five on board can therefore be presumed dead.
The twisted tragedy, which had the world captivated for five straight days, began on June 18 when the vessel lost contact with its support ship off the coast of Newfoundland in Canada, an hour and 45 minutes into its dive. It was believed to be carrying oxygen that would last five people for 96 hours. Authorities from the US, Canada and France had been involved in the search operation.
The US Coast guard said that a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) found five instances of debris from the Titan, which was “consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel”.
The New York Times reported that on Sunday, a ‘secret network of acoustic sensors’ used by the US Navy had detected a possible implosion near the site of the submersible, around the time that communication was lost. However, since there was no evidence yet of the disaster, no confirmation had been made, and search operations continued.
OceanGate, the company that made the Titan submersible and ran its expeditions, has come under fire for ignoring serious safety concerns from experts both inside and outside the company. OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush was piloting the expedition and is among the five crew members that have been lost.
As far back as 2018, OceanGate received several warnings about the dangers of the submersible, including from its Director of Marine Operations David Lochridge, who worked on a “scathing document” that said the craft needed more testing, warning of potential dangers. Soon after, about three dozen external experts wrote a letter to Stockton Rush collectively expressing ‘unanimous concern’.
On its Twitter page, OceanGate released a statement that read:
We now believe that our CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, have sadly been lost.
These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans. Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew.
This is an extremely sad time for our dedicated employees who are exhausted and grieving deeply over this loss. The entire OceanGate family is deeply grateful for the countless men and women from multiple organizations of the international community who expedited wide-ranging resources and have worked so very hard on this mission. We appreciate their commitment to finding these five explorers, and their days and nights of tireless work in support of our crew and their families.
This is a very sad time for the entire explorer community, and for each of the family members of those lost at sea. We respectfully ask that the privacy of these families be respected during this most painful time. Hercules airplane flies over the French research vessel, L'Atalante approximately 900 miles East of Cape Cod during the search for the 21-foot submersible, Titan, June 21, 2023 over the Atlantic Ocean. The unified command is searching for five people after the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince lost contact with their submersible during a dive to the wreck of the Titanic on June 18, 2023.
Image: U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images
Five lives have been lost in the tragedy:
- British billionaire, aviator and explorer Hamish Harding, 58, who lived in the UAE. Harding was the founder of private equity investment firm Action Group and the chairperson of aviation brokerage company Action Aviation. According to his LinkedIn profile, Harding spent five years in Bengaluru as managing director of Logica India from 1997 to 2022.
- He held multiple Guinness Records and has visited the South Pole with astronaut Buzz Aldrin; he also flew to space on Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin spacecraft in 2022.
- Pakistani millionaire Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his son, Suleman, 19. Dawood, who hailed from one of Pakistan’s richest families, was vice-chairman of Pakistani conglomerate Engro Corporation, encompassing agriculture, petrochemicals and telecommunication infrastructure. He lived in the UK with his family but spent a month in Canada prior to the dive. Suleman was a student. The family has confirmed in a statement to the Associated Press that the father-son duo were aboard the submersible.
- Former French navy officer Paul-Henry Nargeolet, who was a Titanic expert and had reportedly spent more time at the shipwreck than anyone else. He visited the shipwreck first back in 1987.
- OceanGate chief executive Stockton Rush was on board, a spokesperson confirmed to The New York Times.
What happens next?
At a press conference on Thursday, Admiral Mauger of the U.S. Coast Guard said that ‘this is an incredibly unforgiving environment down there on the sea floor’, when asked about the possibility of recovering bodies.
He added that remote operations will continue on the sea floor to document the scene. “I know there’s a lot of questions of why, how, when this happened,” he said. “Authorities have the same questions. That’s going to be the focus of future review.”
He added that the teams were working on piecing together the timeline of events and reiterated that the operation was “incredibly complex”.