The U.S. Coast Guard has announced that officials believe the five people aboard a submersible vessel that had gone missing near the Titanic wreckage are dead.
The 22-foot vessel operated by private company OceanGate left on a tourist expedition Sunday to get close to the deep-sea wreckage, carrying a pilot and four passengers who had paid up to $250,000 each for the trip. The submersible, named Titan, lost contact en route to the wreckage, leading to a massive search to find the vessel in the North Atlantic before its crew ran out of oxygen.
On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard and OceanGate said that they believe every person in the submersible is dead. Remotely-operated vehicles discovered a debris field near the Titanic wreckage that officials say is likely the remains of the Titan sub. The Coast Guard said it believes the vessel imploded on its way down to the site, killing all five men aboard.
“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 said in a statement Thursday. “Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time.”
The victims were Stockton Rush, Hamish Harding, Paul-Henri Nargeolet, Shahzada Dawood and Suleman Dawood. Here is what we know about them:
Stockton Rush, 61
Stockton Rush is the founder and CEO of OceanGate, the company that led the tourist expeditions to the Titanic wreckage site. The British businessman oversaw the company’s development of submersibles that aimed to travel up to 20,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, and he served as the Titan’s pilot during its fatal trip.
At age 19, Rush became the youngest jet-transport pilot in the world, obtaining his rating at the United Airlines Jet Training Institute in 1981. While studying aerospace engineering at Princeton University, Rush worked for Overseas National Airways under a subcontract from Saudi Arabian Airlines, flying to destinations including Cairo, Mumbai and Zurich.
Rush initially wanted to become an astronaut, but his eyesight didn’t meet the standards to become a military pilot. He instead worked for McDonnell Douglas as a flight-test engineer on F-15 fighter jets before going to business school and eventually investing his inheritance in select tech companies.
After attending Richard Branson’s 2004 launch of SpaceShipOne ― the first commercial aircraft sent into space ― Rush said he “had this epiphany that this was not at all what I wanted to do.”
“I didn’t want to go up into space as a tourist. I wanted to be Captain Kirk on the Enterprise. I wanted to explore,” he told Smithsonian Magazine in 2019. The businessman pivoted to deep-sea exploration and founded OceanGate Expeditions in 2009.
Rush is survived by his wife, Wendy Rush, who is OceanGate’s communications director and reportedly a descendant of a famous couple who died on the Titanic.
Hamish Harding, 58
Hamish Harding was a British businessman based in the United Arab Emirates who founded and chaired the Dubai-based aircraft brokerage company Action Aviation. He was known as a zealous explorer, having completed multiple record-setting expeditions before his fatal tour in the Titan submersible.
The pilot, licensed to fly business jets and airliners, traveled to Antarctica in 2016 with Buzz Aldrin, the Apollo 11 astronaut and the second man to walk on the moon, helping Aldrin become the oldest person, at age 86, to reach the South Pole. Harding made a similar journey four years later with his son, who at 12 became the youngest person to make the same trip, according to The New York Times.
In 2019, Harding set another record when he and former International Space Station commander Col. Terry Virts completed the fastest circumnavigation of the Earth by airplane.
Harding, who also chaired the Middle East chapter of The Explorers Club, won multiple world records for his dive in the Mariana Trench, the world’s deepest part of the ocean. The trip of more than four hours took him nearly three times farther down than the site of the Titanic wreckage. It earned him and American explorer Victor Vescovo two Guinness World Records ― one for the longest distance traversed at full ocean depth by a crewed vessel and one for the longest time spent there on a single dive.
“If something goes wrong, you are not coming back,” Harding told The Week, an Indian magazine, in 2021 after completing the dive.
In 2022, Harding flew to the edge of outer space in Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket. And when the opportunity to explore the Titanic presented itself, the adventurer took it, saying on social media before the expedition that the Titan trip would likely be the first and only such mission this year.
Shahzada Dawood, 48, and Suleman Dawood, 19
Shahzada Dawood was the vice chairman of Engro, a Pakistani energy investment company, and director of investment and holdings firm Dawood Hercules Corp.
The British-based businessman also served on the board of the SETI Institute, a NASA-funded nonprofit that focuses on extraterrestrial research.
In a 2019 blog post on a website for her coaching business, Dawood’s wife, Christine, wrote about a traumatizing flight experience she and her husband survived. She described experiencing multiple plunges that left her frightened and caused Shahzada Dawood to contemplate his own life.
“I’ve read many times that people start to pray in such situations or that their life flashes by like a movie,” she wrote. “My husband told me later that he was thinking of all the opportunities he’d missed and how much he still wanted to teach our children.”
Dawood boarded the submersible on Sunday with his teenage son, Suleman Dawood. Suleman had just completed his first year as a business major at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.
Friends of Shahzada Dawood told The New York Times that the father-son duo were passionate about science, the environment and exploration.
Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77
Paul-Henri Nargeolet was a French deep sea explorer nicknamed “Mr. Titanic” for his expertise on the subject. He had been on more than 35 dives to the Titanic wreckage before his tragic fate on the OceanGate submersible.
Nargeolet was the director of underwater research for RMS Titanic Inc., which owns the salvage rights to the famous wreck. According to the company’s website, it conducted eight research-and-recovery expeditions from 1987 to 2010. Nargeolet’s first dive to the Titanic was in July 1987, about two years after the wreckage of the 1912 sinking was discovered about 400 miles off Newfoundland, Canada.
Nargeolet was an amateur diver in his youth before he joined the French Navy in 1964, according to a biography published on the website of the Cité de la Mer, a French oceanography museum that has hosted Titanic exhibitions. He retired from the navy in 1986 and oversaw two deep-sea submersibles at the publicly funded French Institute for Research and Exploitation of the Sea.
Last year, HarperCollins France published a book Nargeolet wrote about the Titanic. The expert said in an interview with the publisher that the Titanic had captured the public imagination not just because of the 1997 James Cameron movie but also because everyone finds something interesting about the ship, the voyage and its sinking.
“Once you’ve gotten your head into the Titanic,” he said, “it’s hard to get it out.”