A British billionaire, father and son and renowned diver: Who was on the Titanic submarine?

British billionaire explorer Hamish Harding, UK citizens Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood, French national Paul-Henri Nargeolet and OceanGate Expeditions chief executive Stockton Rush were on board Titan

Rachel Sharp,Tara Cobham,Jane Dalton
Friday 30 June 2023 10:39 BST
Missing Titanic submarine: What happened to the Titan tourist submersible?

All five passengers on the Titan submersible that vanished during a mission to explore the Titanic wreckage were killed when the vessel endured a “catastophic implosion” deep in the ocean.

British billionaire explorer Hamish Harding, UK citizens Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood, French national Paul-Henri Nargeolet and OceanGate Expeditions chief executive Stockton Rush had “sadly been lost”, the company announced on 22 June – when debris from the sub was foud on the sea floor.

The US Coast Guard offered its “deepest condolences” to the families after the tail cone of the vessel was found around 1,600ft from the bow of the Titanic wreck. There was a “catastrophic implosion” of the Titan’s pressure chamber, the expeditions company said.

It added: “These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans.

“Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time.

“We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew.”

On 28 June, the US Coast Guard announced that a search had since recovered “presumed human remains” from the sea floor.

This what is known about the five people on board:

Hamish Harding

Hamish Harding posted about his plans to see the Titanic wreckage two days before the sub went missing

Hamish Harding, 58, chairman of private plane firm Action Aviation, had posted on social media that he was proud to be heading to the Titanic as a “mission specialist”, adding: “Due to the worst winter in Newfoundland in 40 years, this mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023.”

He had previously travelled to the bottom of the ocean on the Challenger Deep and into space on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

The father of two was a seasoned explorer and held three Guinness World Records, including the longest duration at full ocean depth by a crewed vessel. He dived to the lowest depth of the Mariana Trench in March 2021.

Dubai-based Mr Harding was also on board the 2019 “One More Orbit” flight mission that set a record for the fastest circumnavigation of Earth by aircraft over both geographic poles.

“He doesn’t stand still. If he’s not working hard, he’s exploring hard,” said Jannicke Mikkelsen, an explorer and friend.

Paul-Henri Nargeolet

French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet was described by OceanGate as the “Titanic’s greatest explorer”

French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, was director of underwater research at a company that owns the rights to the Titanic wreck and recovers artifacts.

A former commander in the French navy, he was both a deep diver and a mine-sweeper. After retiring from the navy, he led the first recovery expedition to the Titanic in 1987 and several more, becoming a leading authority on the wreck site.

OceanGate described Mr Nargeolet as the “Titanic’s greatest explorer”.

The former naval officer was born in Chamonix, France, but spent his early years in Africa with his parents. He was married to American newsreader Michelle Marsh until she died in 2017.

He completed 35 dives in the submersible. In a 2020 interview, he spoke of the dangers of deep diving, saying: “I am not afraid to die, I think it will happen one day.”

Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman

Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his son Suleman Dawood, 19, were UK citizens, believed to have lived in a Surrey mansion with Mr Dawood’s wife Christine and daughter Alina.

Shahzada Dawood has been named as one of the people on the submersible in a family statement

Shahzada Dawood was vice-chairman of one of Pakistan’s largest conglomerates, Engro Corporation, with investments in fertilisers, vehicle manufacturing, energy and digital technologies.

His interests included wildlife photography, gardening and exploring natural habitats, while Suleman was a fan of science fiction literature, according to a statement from the Dawood Group. He studied at the University of Strathclyde.

Stockton Rush

OceanGate Expeditions CEO Stockton Rush

Stockton Rush, 61, chief executive of OceanGate Expeditions, told Sky News earlier this year the Titanic was “an amazingly beautiful wreck”.

His company, which provides crewed submersible services for researchers and explorers to travel deep into the ocean, operated the doomed Titan submersible.

Mr Rush began his career as a pilot at 19 after qualifying from the United Airlines Jet Training Institute. He was the youngest jet transport-rated pilot in the world.

According to Mr Rush’s biography on his company’s website, he graduated from Princeton University with a BSE in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering in 1984.

He then joined the McDonnell Douglas Corporation as a flight test engineer, and spent two years at Edwards Air Force Base.

He served on the Museum of Flight’s Board of Trustees, the board of enterprise software company Entomo and as chairman of Remote Control Technology.

In 2012, Mr Rush also founded the non-profit OceanGate Foundation while sitting on the board of BlueView Technologies, a manufacturer of high-frequency sonar systems.

The company behind the doomed venture

OceanGate Expeditions offers eight-day tourist missions to see the Titanic wreckage at a cost of $250,000 a person.

An OceanGate submersible like the one missing

It says it uses next-generation crewed submersibles and launch platforms to increase deep ocean access as far as 4,000 metres.

“OceanGate has successfully completed over 14 expeditions and over 200 dives in the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico,” its website says.

“Following every mission, the team evaluates and updates the procedures as part as a continued commitment to evolve and ensure operational safety.”

Its submersibles were launched from a mother ship which then recovered them at the end of the missions.

Titanic wreckage at the bottom of the ocean

The Titanic, operated by the White Star Line, sank on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean back in 1912.

The ship, the largest vessel at the time, set sail from Southampton on 10 April 1912, with more than 2,200 passengers and crew on board, heading for New York City.

Five days into its voyage, the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the ocean. More than 1,500 people died.

The wreck lay undiscovered, until in 1985 it was found around 12,500ft at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, around 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

In recent years, trips to visit it have become increasingly popular.

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