Five people aboard a missing submersible, on its way to the 1912 wreckage of the Titanic, have died in what appears to have been a “catastrophic implosion,” a U.S. Coast Guard official said on Thursday.
The five included the British billionaire and explorer Hamish Harding, 58; Pakistani-born business magnate Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his 19-year-old son, Suleman, both British citizens.
Also on board were French oceanographer and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, who had visited the wreck dozens of times; and Stockton Rush, the American founder and chief executive of OceanGate, who was piloting the submersible.
The announcement of their death brought to a grim end the massive international search for the vessel that was lost during the voyage to the Titanic.
“These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans,” OceanGate Expeditions, the U.S.-based company that operated the Titan submersible, said in a statement.
“Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time.”
An unmanned deep-sea robot deployed from a Canadian ship discovered the wreckage of the Titan on Thursday morning about 1,600 feet (488 meters) from the bow of the century-old wreck, 2-1/2 miles (4 km) below the surface, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger said at a press conference.
“The debris field here is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vehicle,” Mauger said.
Rescue teams from several countries had spent days searching thousands of square miles of open seas with planes and ships for any sign of the 22-foot (6.7-meter) Titan.
The submersible lost contact on Sunday morning with its support ship about an hour and 45 minutes into what should have been a two-hour descent.
Mauger said it was too early to tell whether the vessel’s failure occurred then or at a later time.
The detection of undersea noises on Tuesday and Wednesday using sonar buoys dropped from Canadian aircraft had temporarily offered hope that the people on board the submersible were alive and trying to communicate by banging on the hull.
The search had grown increasingly desperate on Thursday, when the estimated 96-hour air supply was expected to run out if the Titan were still intact.
The Titanic, which sank in 1912 on its maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg, killing more than 1,500 people, lies about 900 miles (1,450 km) east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and 400 miles (640 km) south of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The expedition to the wreck, which OceanGate has been operating since 2021, cost $250,000 per person, according to OceanGate’s website.