The five people aboard a missing submersible died in what appeared to have been a “catastrophic implosion,” a US Coast Guard official said on Thursday, bringing the enormous worldwide search for the vessel that went down during a mission to the Titanic to a bleak conclusion.
“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 US-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.”
According to US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger, an unmanned deep-sea robot dispatched from a Canadian ship located the Titan wreckage on Thursday morning approximately 1,600 feet (488 metres) from the bow of the century-old disaster, 2-1/2 miles (4 km) below the surface.
“The debris field here is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vehicle,” Mauger said.
The five people on board included British billionaire and explorer Hamish Harding, 58; Pakistani-born business magnate Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his 19-year-old son Suleman, both British citizens; French oceanographer and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, who had visited the wreck dozens of times; and Stockton Rush, the American founder and CEO of OceanGate, who was piloting the submersible.
Several countries’ rescue teams had spent days searching thousands of square miles of open oceans with planes and ships for any trace of the Titan, which was 22 feet (6.7 metres) long.
The submersible lost communication with its support ship on Sunday morning, approximately an hour and 45 minutes into what should have been a two-hour descent. According to Mauger, it is too early to know whether the vessel’s breakdown occurred.
The detection of undersea noises using acoustic buoys dropped from Canadian aircraft on Tuesday and Wednesday gave optimism that the individuals on board the submersible were alive and trying to communicate by banging on the hull.
But, officials had warned that the sound research was inconclusive and that the noises might not have come from the Titan at all.
“There doesn’t appear to be any relation between the noises and the location of the debris field on the sea floor,” Mauger said on Thursday.
The hunt became increasingly desperate on Thursday, when the Titan’s estimated 96-hour air supply was set to run out assuming the ship was still intact.