Families of victims who perished in the 1912 sinking of the Titanic have questioned the moral aspect of an expedition tour to the wreckage that is now lost at sea.
The US Coast Guard, along with the Canadian Navy, continue the gruelling search for five passengers aboard the Titan submersible past the deadline for their supply of oxygen. OceanGate, the company that operates the submersible, projected that the crew had 96 hours of available oxygen after Titan went missing on Sunday, which has raised fears they ran out of oxygen around 5.30am EDT.
Coast Guard officials said on Thursday afternoon that they had found a debris field near the search area, noting that the developments will be discussed during a press conference later in the day.
Meanwhile, the company behind the tour, which has launched expeditions to the Titanic since 2021, has faced backlash over safety concerns and the dark tourism associated with the trip. In an interview with CNN, John Locascio, whose uncles Alberto and Sebastiano Peracchio died in the Titanic sinking, characterised the Titan tour as morbid and criticised the hefty pricetag passengers paid to see the site of the wreckage.
“I compare it to looking inside a grave. I mean, people died there tragically, very tragically. Why make it a place for people to go see? Dead bodies are there, or what’s left of them,” Mr Locascio told the network.
Mr Locascio’s uncles, who were 17 and 20 when they drowned, were among more than 1,500 victims who lost their lives in the tragedy. Most bodies have never been recovered because, according to experts, it is nearly impossible to reach the ocean floor where the remains are scattered.
“The ship is there, or what’s left of it, and it’s just a peaceful site there right now, or as peaceful as can be,” Mr Locascio went on to say. “... if my soul was there, I wouldn’t want people coming down to take a look at me… I don’t feel that it would be a very comfortable situation, to have people just looking, ogling. It makes no sense.”
Mr Locascio’s wife Angelica Harris, who wrote a book about the Peracchio siblings titled Two Boys and a Dream, urged potential visitors in the future not to trivialise the tragic events that took place inside the ship.
“If you’re going to go down there, just revere the Titanic as a grave,” Ms Harris told CNN. “As a place where, you know, a loved one is. I mean, for us, it’s our uncles who are our loved ones, but there are many other loved ones who are there and it’s obvious by the shoes that are being found, and the jewellery, and the plates.”
She added: “Just by looking at Titanic you could see the tragedy and the violence. They died by violence. They didn’t die peacefully. It wasn’t like they fell asleep and woke up the next day in heaven.”
Aboard theTitan are CEO and founder of OceanGate Expeditions Stockton Rush, British billionaire explorer Hamish Harding, renowned French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet and Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood.
The watercraft submerged on Sunday morning from its support vessel to travel to the Titanic wreckage which sits at a depth of 12,500ft. About an hour and 45 minutes later, the Titan lost contact with its surface ship, the Polar Prince.
Although the deadline for available oxygen has passed, the search for the missing submersible continues. OceanGate co-founder Guillermo Söhnlein told CNN that the crew would have “realised days ago that the best thing they can do to ensure their rescue is to extend the limits of those supplies by relaxing as much as possible.”
Based on the crew members’ expertise, the “window available” for the suspected rescue time is longer than “what most people think”, he added.
At this time, however, it remains a mystery what happened after the submersible lost contact with its mother ship. Experts have theorised that the vessel could be stuck in the wreckage of the Titanic, floating on the surface if an emergency option was activated, or could have possibly imploded already.
The US Coast Guard announced on Thursday that an ROV, or remotely-operated vehicle, discovered a “debris field” near the Titanic wreckage in the search for the missing submersible. It is unclear whether the debris is believed to be linked to the Titan, and experts with the agency will address the findings later on Thursday.
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