Coast Guard admits ‘explosion’ heard when Titanic sub lost contact

US Coast Guard say noise ‘consistent with incident’ of catastrophic implosion, which left five men on board vessel dead

Tara Cobham
Friday 23 June 2023 17:18 BST

How deep missing titan submersible debris were found in ocean shown in animation

The US Coast Guard has admitted an “explosion” was heard in the vicinity of where the Titan submersible was when it lost contact with its support vessel.

The US Navy detected an “anomaly consistent with an implosion or explosion” after the tourist submarine lost contact one hour and 45 minutes into the descent to the Titanic wreckage on Sunday, the Coast Guard confirmed to The Independent.

The sound was "consistent" with the catastrophic implosion, which killed five men on board the Titan sub, including OceanGate Expeditions’ chief executive Stockton Rush.

No more similar sounds were heard throughout the four-day search and rescue mission, a Coast Guard spokesperson said.

The four-day search and rescue mission that followed left the loved ones of those on board in a “torturous” yet hopeful wait for news, said a friend of one of the stranded five

Despite the “explosion” heard, the Coast Guard said it considered all of its acoustic data and decided to continue with its mission as a search and rescue because the sound was "not definitive at that point”.

British billionaire Hamish Harding, renowned French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet, UK-based Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman were all aboard the Titan along with Mr Rush.

The rescue mission that followed left the loved ones of those on board in a “torturous” yet hopeful wait for news, said a friend of one of the crew, as the estimated 96-hour emergency supply of oxygen was thought to be running out as “tapping sounds” were detected by sonar.

The Unified Command - the Coast Guard, US Navy, and Canadian Coast Guard - decided to not disclose the “unconfirmed” audio because they did not want to disrupt the search when the priority was “making every effort to save the lives of all on board”.

The Titan submerged at 8am EDT (1pm UK time) on Sunday and lost contact with the Polar Prince one hour and 45 minutes later. After it did not surface as expected two hours later, the Coast Guard said it received a report of the missing vessel at 5.40pm EDT (10.40pm UK time).

The Coast Guard said it is unable to confirm the exact time of the “acoustic anomaly” but said it was “sometime after communications were lost between Sunday and Monday” when additional equipment, including from the US Navy, which could analyse and receive acoustic data, was deployed to the search site.

The noise “was consistent with an explosion but not conclusive”, so “we cannot definitively say if the explosion sound was or was not the incident that killed those on board”, said the spokesperson.

All five men on board the missing Titan submersible were declared dead after it was found that the craft imploded near the site of the shipwreck, authorities announced Thursday.

This comes after Hollywood filmmaker James Cameron revealed that he received the information within 24 hours of the disappearance of the submersible that it had imploded when it lost communication with its mothership.

The director of the 1997 Oscar-winning film Titanic, said he received confirmation of a “loud bang” within an hour and that the last week had “felt like a prolonged and nightmarish charade”.

Lord West said the search and rescue mission would have been “very, very expensive” as “nothing is cheap at those depths”. He said the equipment alone would have cost hundreds of millions of pounds.

But the former First Sea Lord said that “one always goes flat out” in missions where there is a hope of saving lives. Paying tribute to the five men, he said, “It’s desperately sad this has happened - a horrible loss of these people.”

Commenting on the “acoustic anomaly”, he said: “With underwater sounds, you can never be completely certain. It was probably right to keep looking - while there was still the possibility they could be alive, you would keep searching.”

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