The five people aboard a missing submersible died in a “catastrophic implosion,” a U.S. Coast Guard official said on Thursday, bringing a grim end to the international search for the vessel that was lost during a deep-sea voyage to the wreck of the Titanic.
“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 Expeditions, the U.S.-based company that operated the Titan submersible, said in a statement. “Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time.”
An unmanned robot deployed from a Canadian ship discovered the wreckage of the Titan on Thursday morning about 1,600 feet (488 meters) from the bow of the century-old wreck, 2-1/2 miles (4 km) below the surface in a remote area of the North Atlantic, U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger said at a press conference.
“The debris field here is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vehicle,” Mauger said.
The five aboard included the British billionaire and explorer Hamish Harding, 58; Pakistani-born business magnate Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his 19-year-old son, Suleman, both British citizens; French oceanographer and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, who had visited the wreck dozens of times; and Stockton Rush, the American founder and chief executive of OceanGate, who was piloting the submersible.
Rescue teams from several countries had spent days searching thousands of square miles of open seas with planes and ships for any sign of the 22-foot (6.7-meter) Titan. The submersible lost contact with its support ship on Sunday morning about an hour and 45 minutes into what should have been a two-hour descent.
Mauger said it was too early to tell when the vessel’s failure occurred. The search operation had sonar buoys in the water for more than three days and had not detected any sort of loud explosive noise during the period, Mauger said.
The buoys had picked up some sounds on Tuesday and Wednesday that temporarily offered hope the people on board the Titan were alive and trying to communicate by banging on the hull.
But officials said analysis of the sound was inconclusive and that the noises might not have emanated from the Titan at all.
“There doesn’t appear to be any relation between the noises and the location of the debris field on the sea floor,” Mauger said on Thursday.
Robotic craft on the ocean floor will continue to gather evidence, Mauger said, but it is not clear whether recovering the bodies will be possible given the nature of the accident and the extreme conditions at those depths.
Five major pieces of the Titan have been found, including most of the pressure hull, officials said.