The five people aboard the submersible that had been missing for days were killed when the small vessel carrying them to the Titanic wreckage site had a “catastrophic implosion,” the Coast Guard said Thursday afternoon.
Members of a massive international search effort found a debris field in the general area of the Titanic earlier in the day, and it was confirmed to contain parts of the Titan sub.
The debris is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel,” Rear Adm. John Mauger, commander of the First Coast Guard District, said in a news conference.
The debris was found about 1,600 feet from the Titanic’s bow on the sea floor, Mauger said, adding that it was too early to tell when the Titan imploded.
However, an “anomaly” the U.S. Navy detected Sunday was likely the small watercraft’s fatal blast, according to a senior military official. The irregularity was picked up when the Navy went back and analyzed its acoustic data after the submersible was reported missing that day.
That anomaly was “consistent with an implosion or explosion in the general vicinity of where the Titan submersible was operating when communications were lost,” a senior Navy official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity. The Navy shared the information with the Coast Guard, but the data was not considered definitive.
Paul Hankins, the U.S. Navy director of salvage operations and ocean engineering, said the debris found Thursday indicated a “catastrophic event.” He and Mauger said it included a tail cone, the end bell of the pressure hull and the aft end bell, which according to Hankins, “basically comprise the totality of that pressure vessel.”
OceanGate, the company that operated the Titan – and whose CEO, Stockton Rush, piloted the watercraft – issued a statement saying the travelers “have sadly been lost.”
“We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew,” the statement said.
The other four people believed to have perished were Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, British adventurer Hamish Harding and French deep-sea explorer and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet.
“Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives on the Titan,” the White House said in a statement. “They have been through a harrowing ordeal over the past few days, and we are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers.”
Debris field discovered early Thursday
Search and rescue crews remotely operating an underwater vehicle had discovered debris near the Titanic earlier Thursday, the day the submersible was expected to run out of oxygen.
The debris was found by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) associated with the Canadian vessel Horizon Arctic that reached the sea floor and began searching for the submersible early Thursday, according to the Coast Guard, which said ROVs will be used in a continued investigation of what happened.
The complex search and rescue mission attracted international attention and involved personnel from the U.S., Canada, France and the United Kingdom. Another ROV, associated with the French vessel L’Atalante, also deployed Thursday, the Coast Guard said.
The accelerating search efforts came as an updated prediction by the Coast Guard said the Titan submersible was likely to run out of oxygen roughly around 7 a.m. EDT Thursday. It initially had 96 hours of oxygen for a crew of five. Experts have noted that the estimates are imprecise. In the end, running out of oxygen was not the biggest problem.