A renowned Titanic expert, a world record-holding adventurer, two members of one of Pakistan’s wealthiest families and the CEO of the company leading an expedition to the world’s most famous shipwreck are presumed to have died aboard the Titan submersible when it imploded in the Atlantic Ocean sometime this week.
The U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday said there were no survivors after the catastrophic implosion deep in the North Atlantic.
The search for the submersible — as well as any clues to explain what happened underwater — was ongoing Thursday after a deep-sea robot found debris near the Titanic shipwreck. Rear Adm. John Mauger, of the First Coast Guard District, said search efforts will continue but that the prospect of finding or recovering remains was unknown.
The Titan was reported overdue Sunday night about 435 miles (700 kilometers) south of St. John’s, Newfoundland, according to Canada’s Joint Rescue Coordination Center, spurring a desperate international rescue effort. Rescuers raced against the clock because it was feared the oxygen supply could run out by approximately 6 a.m. Thursday.
The expedition featuring the Titan was led by OceanGate, making its third voyage to the Titanic, which struck an iceberg and sank in 1912, killing all but about 700 of the roughly 2,200 passengers and crew.
A pilot and four other people were on the Titan. They were:
Although his background is in aerospace and technology, Rush founded OceanGate Inc. in 2009 to provide crewed submersibles for undersea researchers and explorers, according to the company’s website. Rush was the Titan’s pilot, said company spokesperson Andrew Von Kerens.
The private company based in Washington started bringing tourists to the Titanic in 2021 as part of its effort to chronicle the slow deterioration of the wreck.
“The ocean is taking this thing, and we need to document it before it all disappears or becomes unrecognizable,” Rush told The Associated Press in 2021.
In an interview with CBS News last year, Rush defended the safety of his submersible but said nothing is without risk.
“What I worry about most are things that will stop me from being able to get to the surface — overhangs, fish nets, entanglement hazard,” he said, adding that a good pilot can avoid such perils.
Rush became the youngest jet transport rated pilot in the world at age 19 in 1981, and flew commercial jets in college, according to his company biography. He joined McDonnell Douglas Corp. in 1984 as a flight test engineer. Over the past 20 years, he oversaw the development of multiple successful IP ventures.
Greg Stone, a longtime ocean scientist and a friend of Rush, called him “a real pioneer” in the innovation of submersibles.
“Stockton was a risk-taker. He was smart. He was, he had a vision, he wanted to push things forward,” Stone said Tuesday.
A British businessman, Harding lived in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Action Aviation, an aircraft brokering company for which Harding served as chairman, said he was one of the mission specialists, who paid to go on the expedition.
Harding was a billionaire adventurer who held three Guinness World Records, including the longest duration at full ocean depth by a crewed vessel. In March 2021, he and ocean explorer Victor Vescovo dived to the lowest depth of the Mariana Trench. In June 2022, he went into space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.
“Both the Harding family and the team at Action Aviation are very grateful for all the kind messages of concern and support from our friends and colleagues,” the company said in a statement.
In a Facebook post Saturday, Harding said he was “proud” to be part of the mission.
“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,” he posted. “A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive (Sunday).”
Harding was “looking forward to conducting research” at the Titanic site, said Richard Garriott de Cayeux, the president of The Explorers Club, a group to which Harding belonged.
Shahzada and Suleman Dawood
Father-and-son Shahzada and Suleman Dawood were members of one of Pakistan’s most prominent families. Their family had said in a statement that they were both aboard the vessel.
Their firm, Dawood Hercules Corp., based in Karachi, is involved in agriculture, petrochemicals and telecommunication infrastructure.
Shahzada Dawood also was on the board of trustees for the California-based SETI Institute that searches for extraterrestrial intelligence. The Dawoods lived in the UK, according to SETI.
“It is with profound grief that we announce the passing of Shahzada and Suleman Dawood,” the family said in a statement released by the Dawood Foundation. “Our beloved sons were aboard OceanGate’s Titan submersible that perished underwater. Please continue to keep the departed souls and our family in your prayers during this difficult period of mourning.”
Shahzada Dawood was also a member of the Global Advisory Board at the Prince’s Trust International, founded by Britain’s King Charles III to address youth unemployment.
He had degrees from the University of Buckingham in the United Kingdom and Philadelphia University (now Thomas Jefferson University) in the U.S.
Condolences poured in from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, government officials, friends and ordinary Pakistanis. Pakistani TV stations halted their routine broadcasts and shared the news. Salman Sufi, an adviser to Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, wrote on Twitter: “Very sad and unfortunate news. Prayers for the families of deceased. Mr Dawood and family are in our prayers.”
Paul Henri Nargeolet
Nargeolet was a former French navy officer who was considered a Titanic expert after making multiple trips to the wreckage over several decades.
He was director of underwater research for E/M Group and RMS Titanic Inc., had completed 37 dives to the wreck and supervised the recovery of 5,000 artifacts, according to his company profile.
RMS Titanic, Inc., the company that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic shipwreck, mourned the longtime employee known as “PH.”
“The maritime world has lost an iconic and inspirational leader in deep-sea exploration, and we have lost a dear and treasured friend,” the company said in a statement Thursday.
Friend and former colleague Matthew Tulloch said Nargeolet loved his work from the time they first collaborated in the 1990s up until Nargeolet’s death.
“I never got the impression that he was looking forward to retirement,” Tulloch said with a small laugh. “You sort of think of people as they retire, then they can go on and do things that they love to do. This was exactly that for him — I can’t think of anything that I’m aware of that he would enjoy doing more than traveling around and sharing information and his experiences with people.”
Nargeolet’s family described him as an “extraordinary father and husband,” with a big heart and incredible humor in a statement to NBC News.
“He is a man who will be remembered as one of the greatest deep-sea explorers in modern history. When you think of the Titanic and all we know about the ship today, you will think of Paul-Henri Nargeolet and his legendary work,” they said in a statement.
Nargeolet was expedition leader on the most technologically advanced dive to the Titanic in 2010, which used high-resolution sonar and 3D optical imaging on the Titanic’s bow and stern sections as well as the debris field.
While with the French Institute for Research and Exploitation of Sea, he led the first recovery expedition to the Titanic in 1987.