Crew of Missing Titanic Tourist Submersible Believed to Be Dead

Debris found near the historic shipwreck suggests the Titan experienced a “catastrophic implosion”

A photo of the Titan submersible underwater
The Titan submersible. The five people aboard may run out of oxygen on Thursday morning Eastern time. Ocean Gate / Handout / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Editor's Note, June 22, 2023: On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Coast Guard announced the identification of debris from the tourist submersible Titan, which went missing on Sunday during a dive to the wreck of the Titanic. "The debris is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel" that would have killed all five crew members on board, said Rear Admiral John Mauger during a press conference. Investigations into the cause and timing of the implosion are ongoing. Below, read our June 21 story about the search for the missing submersible.

Agencies in the United States and Canada continue to search for a submersible carrying five people that went missing on Sunday while diving to visit the wreckage of the Titanic.

At a press conference around 1 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, U.S. Coast Guard Captain Jamie Frederick said the vessel—which was designed with enough oxygen to support the crew for 96 hours—may only have around 40 hours of oxygen left. That would mean the crew could run out of oxygen early Thursday morning.

Dozens of ships, as well as several aircraft, were searching for the submersible on Tuesday, according to Wired’s Chris Stokel-Walker. At least two remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are scouring the ocean’s depths, in addition to the vessels atop the water. The submersible lost contact with the surface after it had traveled more than halfway to the wreck, which is located about 1,000 miles east of Cape Cod, according to a statement from the U.S. Coast Guard.

A Canadian search team detected “banging” sounds occurring underwater in 30-minute intervals on Tuesday, reports Rolling Stone’s Andrea Marks. But so far, ROVs following up on the sounds haven’t found anything.

“We don’t know the source of that noise, but we’ve shared that information with Navy experts to classify it,” U.S. Coast Guard First District Commander Rear Admiral John Mauger told CBS This Morning early Wednesday, per USA Today’s Grace Hauck.

The door of the vessel is bolted from the outside. David Marquet, a retired U.S. Navy submarine captain, tells NPR’s Rachel Treisman that he thinks the crew’s survival odds are “about 1 percent.”

“It’s basically imagining a spacecraft disappeared on the far side of the moon,” he tells the publication. “A, you have to find it. B, you have to get to it. Even when you get to it … you still need to somehow get the people out of there to safety.”

The vessel, called Titan, is operated by OceanGate, a privately owned company that brings people to the deep ocean in submersibles. While submarines are fully autonomous, submersibles are “supported by a surface vessel, platform, shore team or sometimes a larger submarine,” according to the company’s website.

The Titan is designed to take five people to 13,123 feet below the surface of the ocean. In December 2018, it became the first privately owned vessel with a human on board to dive more than 12,000 feet below the surface, Tony Perrottet wrote for Smithsonian magazine in 2019.

The five people on the submersible are Stockton Rush, CEO and co-founder of OceanGate; Paul-Henry Nargeolet, a French diver and Titanic expert; Hamish Harding, a British businessman and chair of Action Aviation; Shahzada Dawood, a prominent Pakistani businessman; and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood.

The Titan launched from the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince at 8 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. One hour and 45 minutes into the dive, the submersible lost contact with Polar Prince. The Titan was supposed to resurface at 3 p.m. that same day.

It’s unclear what caused the loss of communication, according to NPR’s Emily Olson and Ayana Archie.

In recent years, several people had questioned the Titan’s safety. Two former OceanGate employees raised concerns about its hull when they worked at the company years ago, according to CNN’s Jessie Yeung. In a 2018 letter to OceanGate’s CEO, more than three dozen outside experts wrote that the company’s “experimental” approach to designing the Titan could lead to “catastrophic” problems, write the New York Times’ Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Jenny Gross and Anna Betts.

Additional rescue ships with more remotely operated vehicles are en route to the search area, but the U.S. Coast Guard says they will not arrive before the crew’s oxygen is predicted to run out, reports the Independent’s Bevan Hurley. Still, officials have not given up hope.

The effort remains a “search and rescue mission, 100 percent,” Frederick said Wednesday, per CNN.

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