The five crew members on board the missing submersible Titan died in a “catastrophic implosion”, the US Coast Guard has confirmed.
A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) located pieces of debris from the Titan on the seabed about 500m from the bow of the Titanic wreck on Thursday morning Rear Admiral John Mauger, the First Coast Guard District commander, told a press briefing.
The debris was analysed and confirmed to belong to the Titan, and family members were informed there had been no survivors, he added.
The bodies of the five deceased crew members may never be found.
“This is an incredibly unforgiving environment down there on the sea floor and the debris is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel,” Admiral Mauger said.
“I can only imagine what this has been like for them and I hope that this discovery provides some solace during this difficult time.”
An OceanGate spokesperson confirmed that CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, British billionaire Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet had “sadly been lost” in a statement to The Independent.
“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.”
The Titan submersible vanished 105 minutes after launching from the Polar Prince icebreaker research ship about 900 miles off the coast of Cape Cod on Sunday morning.
The Titan’s twin communication systems — texts and electronic pings — suddenly stopped communicating with the support vessel, and no further sign of life was detected until Thursday’s grim discovery.
A sweeping search effort involving Canadian Boeing P-8 Poseidon and C-130 Hercules reconnaissance aircraft, 10 vessels and underwater sonar buoys had been combing an area of the North Atlantic Ocean twice the size of Connecticut for the past several days.
Slim hopes of finding survivors fell when the US Coast Guard revealed on Thursday morning that a debris field had been found near the Titanic shipwreck by a a remote operated vehicle (ROV) searching for the missing Titan submersible.
The US Coast Guard said they had found five major pieces of debris. The ROV initially found a nose cone, a component found outside the pressure hull.
They then found a “large debris field” where a part of the pressure hull was still intact.
The robotic search crew then found a second debris field where the other end of the pressure hull was located.
When asked whether survivors could have been found if the search and rescue mission reached the stricken sub earlier, Adm Mauger repeated that the vessel had suffered a “catastrophic implosion”.
Sonar devices deployed during the search mission had not picked up any signs of an explosion, Adm Mauger said.
It was too soon to say whether there would be a criminal investigation into the loss of life, he added.
The search teams had been racing to find the Titan before a 96-hour deadline passed on Thursday morning when the vessel’s oxygen reserves were expected to extinguish.
An OceanGate spokesperson told The Independent: “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.”
Lacking the specialist ROVs necessary to operate at the Titanic shipwreck’s location, officials had to coordinate a multi-national response at breakneck speed involving private companies from at least five countries.
An ROV from the Horizon Arctics, a 307-foot Canadian vessel, located the debris field, the Coast Guard said.
In the days after the vessel disappeared, stories of whistleblower warnings, “experimental” building techniques and faulty communication systems on the OceanGate Expeditions vessel emerged.
Mr Rush, the founder and CEO of OceanGate, had been on many of the Titan’s 13 previous trips to the famed shipwreck and insisted the submersible was safe in interviews.
The Titan had seven on board mechanisms to resurface in the event of an emergency.
They included thrusters, an inflatable air bladder, and “drop weights” of sandbags and lead pipes that would fall off in the event of an emergency and bring the vessel up to the surface using buoyancy.
If the crew was incapacitated, hooks holding the sandbags were designed to dissolve in sea water, allowing the vessel to rise to the surface.
It’s unclear if any of these safety measures were activated.
Trevor Hale, a spokesman for The Explorers Club, told The Independent that debris discovered on Thursday contained components of the Titan lost on a previous dive.
“We understand debris has been found which may be the landing frame and a rear cover of the tail instrument compartment of the Titan lost on previous dives.
“We hear there may be additional debris but no updated visuals of the submersible.”
Two of the missing crew members, Mr Harding and Mr Nargeolet, are members of The Explorer’s Club.
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