Sub operator, OceanGate says all five people onboard a missing submersible near the wreck of the Titanic have been lost.
“We now believe that our CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, have sadly been lost,” the company said in a pensive statement on Thursday.
The company said the “men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans” while sending condolences to “every member of their families during this tragic time”.
“We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew.
This is an extremely sad time for our dedicated employees who are exhausted and grieving deeply over this loss.
“This is a very sad time for the entire explorer community, and for each of the family members of those lost at sea.
“We respectfully ask that the privacy of these families be respected during this most painful time,” OceanGate solemnly said.
The confirmation came a few hours after a “debris field” was discovered by an underwater robot searching near the wreck of the Titanic for the missing submersible.
The development came after rescuers insisted that the multinational mission to locate the craft was still focused on finding the crew alive despite fears that the vessel’s oxygen may have run out.
“Experts within the unified command are evaluating the information,” the US Coast Guard said in a tweet.
The coast guard said the debris field was found “within the search area by an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) near the Titanic.”
The small tourist sub had been lost since Sunday, somewhere in a vast swathe of the North Atlantic between the ocean’s surface and more than two miles (nearly four kilometers) below.
At a press briefing in Boston later Thursday, the US Coast Guard said the debris discovered on the ocean floor suggests the missing submersible near the wreck of the Titanic suffered a “catastrophic loss” of pressure,
“Upon this determination, we immediately notified the families,” Rear Admiral John Mauger told reporters in Boston.
“On behalf of the United States Coast Guard and the entire unified command, I offer my deepest condolences to the families.”
The missing submersible was carrying British billionaire Hamish Harding and dual Pakistani-British citizens Shahzada Dawood, a tycoon, and his son Suleman. OceanGate Expeditions charges $250,000 for a seat on the sub.
Also on board is OceanGate’s CEO, Stockton Rush, and a French submarine operator Paul-Henri Nargeolet, nicknamed “Mr Titanic” for his frequent dives at the site.
Ships and planes have scoured 10,000 square miles (around 20,000 square kilometers) of surface water — roughly the size of the US state of Massachusetts — for the vessel.
The Titanic’s watery grave is situated 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, and more than two miles below the surface of the North Atlantic.