The US Coast Guard has recovered “presumed human remains” from the sea floor near the debris of the doomed Titanic sub and will now carry out a formal analysis of it.
The announcement was made hours after large pieces of the submersible Titan, which was destroyed in a “catastrophic implosion” near the wreck of the famed liner, were lowered onto a Canadian pier after being salvaged from the depths of the Atlantic.
The remains will be transferred from St John’s, Newfoundland to a “US port” on a Coast Guard cutter for further analysis by medical experts.
OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, British billionaire Hamish Harding, renowned French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet and Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman were aboard the Titan when it imploded last week.
The submersible lost contact with its mothership Polar Prince just one hour and 45 minutes into its 13,000ft descent to the wreck of the Titanic on 18 June, sparking a desperate four-day search.
Search and rescue teams using a deep water ROV finally found debris from the Titan around 1,600ft from the bow of the Titanic, and have been working to bring them to the surface ever since.
Coast Guard officials had said that the bodies of the victims may never be recovered because of the “unforgiving condition” on the ocean floor, but that the salvage operation was taking all necessary steps to ensure that any remains found would be recovered.
“After consultation with international partner investigative agencies, the Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) intends to transport the evidence aboard a US Coast Guard cutter to a port in the United States where the MBI will be able to facilitate further analysis and testing,” the Coast Guard said in a statement on Wednesday evening.
“United States medical professionals will conduct a formal analysis of presumed human remains that have been carefully recovered within the wreckage at the site of the incident.”
The Coast Guard’s leading investigator welcomed the recovery of the remains.
“I am grateful for the coordinated international and interagency support to recover and preserve this vital evidence at extreme offshore distances and depths,” stated Marine Board of Investigation chair Captain Jason Neubauer.
“The evidence will provide investigators from several international jurisdictions with critical insights into the cause of this tragedy. There is still a substantial amount of work to be done to understand the factors that led to the catastrophic loss of the Titan and help ensure a similar tragedy does not occur again.”
Titan was made of carbon fibre and titanium, weighed 23,000 pounds, and had room for five adults, according to OceanGate.
Pelagic Research Services, the company that operated the ROV that made the previous debris findings, said on Wednesday that its team had successfully completed off-shore operations and was now in the process of demobilisation after 10 days of work.
The Coast Guard said last week that the US Navy had detected sounds that matched an “implosion or explosion” sometime after the sub vanished and before rescue efforts were launched. Rescue efforts continued at the time because the information was not definitive, the Coast Guard said.
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