The son of a Pakistani businessman who is now presumed dead along with his father after their Titanic tour submersible imploded was terrified of the daring expedition, his aunt has revealed.
The US Coast Guard announced during a Thursday press conference that the missing Titan’s pressure chamber was found among other debris, approximately 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic on the ocean floor. In a statement to The Independent, OceanGate — the private company that operated the $250,000-a-seat expedition — confirmed that the five passengers aboard the vessel are now believed dead.
Follow the latest updates on the missing Titanic submarine here.
The victims have been identified by family members as OceanGate Expeditions founder and CEO Stockton Rush, British billionaire Hamish Harding, renowned French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet, Pakistani billionaire Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman.
In an interview published before the tragic developments were announced, Dawood’s sister Azmeh Dawood told NBC News that her nephew was absolutely scared, and only agreed to go on the expedition because it was important to his “Titanic-obsessed” father. Suleman reportedly told family members he was concerned about the tour and “wasn’t very up for it.”
“I feel like I’ve been caught in a really bad film, with a countdown, but you didn’t know what you’re counting down to,” Ms Dawood told NBC. “I personally have found it kind of difficult to breathe thinking of them.”
Ms Dawood said that she wouldn’t have gotten into the Titan “for a million dollars”, also noting that she was ”absolutely heartbroken,” before the US Coast Guard announced ROVs (remotely-operated vehicles) found debris linked to the Titan.
“I feel very bad that the whole world has had to go through so much trauma, so much suspense,” she said.
Five years before the tragedy, a top employee raised safety concerns about the Titan. In 2018, OceanGate fired director of marine operations David Lochridge, claiming he breached his contract and shared confidential information about its designs with two individuals as well as with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
However, Mr Lochridge alleged in a wrongful termination suit obtained by The New Republic that he was fired for blowing the whistle concerning safety issues.
According to the suit, Mr Lochridge delivered highly critical updates regarding the ship’s quality control to senior management and OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, pointing to alleged issues such as “visible flaws” in the ship’s carbon fibre hull, “prevalent flaws” in a scale model, flammable materials onboard, a viewing window not rated for the Titanic’s depth, and key safety documents that were not shared with him.
In a statement on Thursday evening, OceanGate mourned the loss of the five passengers aboard the Titan and thanked international authorities for their efforts.
“These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans,” the press release read. “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.”The US Coast Guard has said that the bodies of the five passengers may never be recovered from the Atlantic.
“This is an incredibly unforgiving environment out there on the sea floor. The debris is consistent with the catastrophic implosion of the vessel. We will continue to work and search the area down there but I don’t have an answer on prospects at this time,” Rear Admiral John Mauger said.
ROVs will remain in place but the Coast Guard will begin to pull back equipment over the next 48 hours.
The Rear Admiral said that sonar buoys had been in the water for the past 72 hours and that they had not picked up any evidence of an implosion, suggesting that it had happened early on in the dive.
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