Titanic-destined sub with 5 aboard goes missing — rescue teams in race against time

Searchers raced to find a submersible diving vessel with five people aboard that went missing in the North Atlantic while on an expedition to view the Titanic shipwreck.

The US Coast Guard received a call Sunday from the submersible’s command ship, the Polar Prince, saying it lost contact with the vessel about 1,450 kilometres east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, according to Lt. Samantha Corcoran, a Coast Guard spokesperson in Boston.

A C-130 plane with radar capability was dispatched to search the area Sunday, and was joined Monday by a Canadian P-8 Poseidon, an aircraft designed for anti-submarine warfare.

“We’re focused on the search and hoping to safely locate all five individuals,” Corcoran said.

OceanGate Expeditions, the operator of the expedition to the Titanic, said in a statement it was “exploring and mobilising all options to bring the crew back safely.”

The company’s missing submersible, the Titan, carries a pilot and four crew to a maximum depth of 4,000 metres and can monitor their health in real-time.

The system provides “early warning detection for the pilot with enough time to arrest the descent and safely return to surface,” according to OceanGate’s website.

The Titan also has a life-support system that can sustain a five-person crew for 96 hours, according to the website.

The vessel is 6.7 metres long and is made of carbon fibre and titanium.

Among those missing is Hamish Harding, chairman of Action Aviation, according to Mark Butler, managing director of the Dubai-based aircraft brokerage.

In a Twitter post Sunday, the company said “the sub had a successful launch and Hamish is currently diving.”

OceanGate’s Titan submersible launching off its platform.

Two other members of the crew, Engro Corp. cice chairman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, are from one of Pakistan’s most prominent business families.

A statement from the Dawood family said there was little information about what had happened. A rescue effort led by several government agencies and deep-sea companies was attempting to re-establish contact with the missing submersible, it said.

According to several newspapers including the Australian, Stockton Rush, founder and chief executive officer of OceanGate, and French pilot Paul-Henry Nargeolet, are also on board.

The company didn’t reply to an email seeking to confirm those details.

Harding posted on social media two days ago that the area was experiencing its worst weather in 40 years.

“A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow,” he wrote.

“This mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023.”

The guests pay $250,000 (R4.54 million), according to the New York Times, which first reported the rescue operation.

OceanGate says it offers 10-day expeditions to the Titanic site, providing “qualified explorers” the opportunity to join as mission specialists.

Their fees underwrite their training and the participation of the science team exploring the ship that sank in 1912 on its maiden transatlantic voyage after hitting an iceberg.

The search is receiving “extensive assistance” from several government agencies and deep-sea companies in trying to reestablish contact with the missing submersible, according to the OceanGate statement.

Everett, Washington-based OceanGate ran expeditions to explore the wreck in 2021 and 2022, according to its website.

A photo of a submersible and the Titanic dive operations was posted on its Twitter feed on June 1.

Trips consist of eight days at sea to survey the wreckage and document the sunken vessel’s condition, as well as flora and fauna inhabiting the wreck site.

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Titanic-destined sub with 5 aboard goes missing — rescue teams in race against time