On Thursday, June 24, 2023, OceanGate’s CEO Stockton Rush, British billionaire explorer Hamish Harding, French maritime and Titanic expert Paul-Henry Nargeolet, and a father and son from one of Pakistan’s most prominent families, Shahzada Dawood and Suleman Dawood met their end about two miles away from the famous Titanic in what experts described as a “catastrophic implosion.” Search and Rescue teams discovered the 22-foot submersible’s wreckage near the site of the Titanic. Oceangate, the company that led the rescue mission, declared all the passengers dead.
On June 16, the submersible and its support ship departed from St. John’s in Newfoundland, Canada. Two days later, the submersible began its dive to see the Titanic, about 370 miles off Newfoundland and 12,500 feet deep in the North Atlantic Ocean. About one hour and 45 minutes into the dive, the Canadian support ship, the Polar Prince, tasked with monitoring the submersible, lost all communication with the vessel.
OceanGate said the sub had a 96-hour oxygen supply, enough to last until Thursday morning. The Coast Guard led the desperate rescue mission, employing U.S. and Canadian ships, aircraft, and other equipment. As of Wednesday, search crews were scouring an area of the ocean roughly two times the size of Connecticut.
The Coast Guard announced earlier Thursday that an underwater robot had discovered a “debris field” in the search area. The debris field is consistent with the pieces of the submersible Titan. The wreckage found included a landing frame and a rear cover from the vessel. The debris was discovered after the sub was expected to have run out of oxygen supply.
US Coast Guard officials stated that remote operating vehicles, or ROVs, would remain operating on the sea floor around the Titanic and investigate the debris field.
“Right now, again, our thoughts are with the families and making sure that they have an understanding as best as we can provide of what happened and begin to find some closure,” an unnamed official revealed during the press conference.
Rear Admiral John Mauger of the US Coast Guard said he did not know whether the Coast Guard would be able to recover the bodies of the five passengers on board the Titan. “This is an incredibly unforgiving environment,” he said.
The Coast Guard later revealed that the families of the deceased had been notified. Mauger paid tribute to the bereaved family in the following words;
“On behalf of the United States Coast Guard and the entire unified command, I offer my deepest condolences to the families,”
On OceanGate’s side, the company said its “hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time.”
“These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans,” it said in a statement.
“We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew.
“This is a very sad time for the entire explorer community and for each of the family members of those lost at sea,” the company added in a press release.
Rush, 61, founded OceanGate in 2009. He was also the co-founder of OceanGate Foundation, a non-profit organization “which aims to catalyze emerging marine technology to further discoveries in marine science, history, and archaeology,” according to the company’s website.
Harding, 58, was chairman of Action Aviation, a global sales company in business aviation. He held three Guinness World Records related to his explorations by plane and into the deep ocean. He had also been to space. “Due to the worst winter in Newfoundland in 40 years, this mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023,’ Harding wrote in a Facebook post announcing he would be aboard the Titan.
Nargeolet, 73, was director of Underwater Research for E/M Group and RMS Titanic, Inc. He successfully dived in a submersible to the site of the Titanic wreckage 37 times and “supervised the recovery of 5,000 artifacts.
Shahzada Dawood, 48, was a member of the board of trustees for the Dawood Foundation, an education nonprofit, according to the World Economic Forum, the board of the SETI Institute, a non-profit research organization. He served as vice chairman on the board of Pakistani Engro Corporation.
According to the New York Times, his son, Suleman Dawood, 19, loved science fiction, solving Rubik’s Cubes, and playing volleyball.