Pilot, 4 passengers of Titan sub died in ‘catastrophic implosion’ — US Coast Guard

Officials say debris found on ocean floor near wreck of the Titanic indicates submersible missing since Sunday was destroyed

This undated photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan, which went missing in June 2023 on its way to document the wreckage of the Titanic.  (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
This undated photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan, which went missing in June 2023 on its way to document the wreckage of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)

AP — The US Coast Guard said on Thursday that a missing submersible imploded near the wreckage of the Titanic, killing all five people on board.

Coast Guard officials said during a news conference that they’ve notified the families of the crew of the Titan, which has been missing for several days.

Debris found during the search for the vessel “is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel,” said Rear Adm. John Mauger of the First Coast Guard District. The weight of water in the deep sea exerts massive downward pressure, so a breach in the submersible’s integrity would have likely caused the total destruction of the vessel.

“The outpouring of support in this highly complex search operation has been greatly appreciated. Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the friends and loved ones of the crew,” Mauger said.

OceanGate Expeditions said in a statement that all five people on board, including company CEO Stockton Rush, are believed to be dead. Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet “have sadly been lost,” OceanGate said in a statement.

OceanGate did not provide details when the company announced the “loss of life” in a statement or how officials knew the crew members perished. The Titan’s 96-hour oxygen supply would have likely ended early Thursday.

Rescuers rushed ships, planes and other equipment to the site of the disappearance. Earlier Thursday, the US Coast Guard said an undersea robot sent by a Canadian ship had reached the sea floor, while a French research institute said a deep-diving robot with cameras, lights and arms also joined the operation.

Submersible pilot Randy Holt, right, communicates with the support boat as he and Stockton Rush, left, CEO and co-founder of OceanGate, dive in the company’s submersible, ‘Antipodes,’ about three miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, June 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

Authorities had detected underwater sounds Tuesday and Wednesday, which gave some hope that the submersible might still be intact.

The search area covered thousands of square miles — twice the size of Connecticut and in waters 2 1/2 miles (4 kilometers) deep.

The Titan was reported overdue Sunday afternoon about 435 miles (700 kilometers) south of St. John’s, Newfoundland, as it was on its way to where the iconic ocean liner sank more than a century ago. OceanGate Expeditions, which is leading the trip, has been chronicling the Titanic’s decay and the underwater ecosystem around it via yearly voyages since 2021.

By Thursday morning, hope was running out that anyone on board the vessel would be found alive.

Newly uncovered allegations suggest there had been significant warnings made about vessel safety during the submersible’s development.

At least 46 people successfully traveled on OceanGate’s submersible to the Titanic wreck site in 2021 and 2022, according to letters the company filed with a US District Court in Norfolk, Virginia, that oversees matters involving the Titanic shipwreck.

One of the company’s first customers characterized a dive he made to the site two years ago as a “kamikaze operation.”

This undated photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows the company’s Titan submersible, which went missing in June 2023 on its way to document the wreckage of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)

“Imagine a metal tube a few meters long with a sheet of metal for a floor. You can’t stand. You can’t kneel. Everyone is sitting close to or on top of each other,” said Arthur Loibl, a retired businessman and adventurer from Germany. “You can’t be claustrophobic.”

During the 2 1/2-hour descent and ascent, the lights were turned off to conserve energy, he said, with the only illumination coming from a fluorescent glow stick.

The dive was repeatedly delayed to fix a problem with the battery and the balancing weights. In total, the voyage took 10 1/2 hours.

The submersible had seven backup systems to return to the surface, including sandbags and lead pipes that drop off and an inflatable balloon.

Nicolai Roterman, a deep-sea ecologist and lecturer in marine biology at the University of Portsmouth, England, said the disappearance of the Titan highlights the dangers and unknowns of deep-sea tourism.

“Even the most reliable technology can fail, and therefore accidents will happen. With the growth in deep-sea tourism, we must expect more incidents like this,” Roterman said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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