June 22, 2023 - Missing Titanic sub crew killed after 'catastrophic implosion'

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Rob Picheta, Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond, Matt Meyer, Tori B. Powell and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 12:01 a.m. ET, June 23, 2023
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10:42 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

"Titanic" director worries implosion will have a negative impact on citizen explorers

Film director James Cameron said Thursday he's worried that the Titan submersible's implosion will have a negative impact on citizen explorers.

"These are serious people with serious curiosity willing to put serious money down to go to these interesting places," the "Titanic" director told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "I don't want to discourage that. But I think that it's almost now a lesson.
The takeaway is, make sure if you're gonna go into a vehicle, whether it's an aircraft or surface craft or a submersible, that it's been through certifying agencies."

Some background: Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, which operated the Titan submersible, and who died in the implosion, had spoken about his antipathy to regulations.

“At some point, safety just is pure waste,” Stockton told journalist David Pogue in an interview last year. “I mean, if you just want to be safe, don’t get out of bed. Don’t get in your car. Don’t do anything.”

9:05 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

"Titanic" director says news of submersible's implosion did not come as a surprise

From CNN's Sabrina Souza

James Cameron appears on CNN on Thursday, June 22. 
James Cameron appears on CNN on Thursday, June 22.  CNN

James Cameron, director of the hit 1997 film “Titanic,” says news of the Titan submersible's explosion "certainly wasn't a surprise."

Cameron, who has made 33 dives to the wreckage himself, told CNN's Anderson Cooper that when he first heard the news of the Titan incident Monday morning, he connected with his small community in the deep submergence group and found out within about a half-hour that the submersible had lost communication and tracking, simultaneously. 

“The only scenario that I could come up with in my mind that could account for that was an implosion,” he told Cooper on Thursday. “A shockwave event so powerful that it actually took out a secondary system that has its own pressure vessel and its own battery power supply which is the transponder that the ship uses to track where the sub is." 

Cameron said he did more digging and got some additional information that seemed to confirm that the submersible had imploded.

"I encouraged all of them to raise a glass in their honor on Monday,” Cameron said of his community group.

He said false-hopes kept getting dangled as search teams looked for the missing passengers over the following days.

"I watched over the ensuing days this whole sort of everybody-running-around-with-their-hair-on-fire search, knowing full well that it was futile, hoping against hope that I was wrong but knowing in my bones that I wasn’t,” Cameron told Cooper.

He expressed condolences for the families of the passengers.

8:00 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

Submersible heading to Titanic wreckage suffered "catastrophic implosion." Here's what we know

From CNN staff

An undated photo of the OceanGate Titan submersible.
An undated photo of the OceanGate Titan submersible. From OceanGate/FILE

The five passengers on the Titan submersible that was diving 13,000 feet to view the Titanic on the ocean floor died in a "catastrophic implosion," authorities said Thursday, bookending an extraordinary five-day international search operation near the site of the world's most famous shipwreck.

The tail cone and other debris were found by a remotely operated vehicle about 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic, deep in the North Atlantic and about 900 east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

“This is an incredibly unforgiving environment down there on the sea floor and the debris is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel,” US Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mauger, the First Coast Guard District commander, told reporters.

Here's what we know:

  • Debris: The remotely operated vehicle found "five different major pieces of debris" from the Titan submersible, according to Paul Hankins, the US Navy's director of salvage operations and ocean engineering. The debris was "consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber" and, in turn, a "catastrophic implosion," he said. As of now, there does not appear to be a connection between the banging noises picked up by sonar earlier this week and where the debris was found.
  • Timing: The US Navy detected an acoustic signature consistent with an implosion on Sunday and relayed that information to the commanders leading the search effort, a senior official told CNN. But the sound was determined to be “not definitive,” the official said. Mauger, for his part, said rescuers had sonar buoys in the water for at least the last 72 hours and had "not detected any catastrophic events." Listening devices set up during the search also did not record any sign of an implosion, Mauger added.
  • What comes next: The remotely operated vehicles will remain on the scene and continue to gather information, Mauger said. It will take time to determine a specific timeline of events in the "incredibly complex" case of the Titan's failure, Mauger said. The Coast Guard official said the agency will eventually have more information about what went wrong and its assessment of the emergency response.
  • Response: Mauger applauded the “huge international” and “interagency” search effort. He said teams had the appropriate gear and worked as quickly as possible. The Coast Guard official also thanked experts and agencies for assisting with the search for the Titan submersible.
  • Who was on board: Tour organizer OceanGate Expeditions said Hamish Harding, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Paul-Henri Nargeolet and OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush died in the submersible. They "shared a distinct spirit of adventure," the company in a statement.
  • Reaction: Nargeolet, a French diver, was an incredible person and highly respected in his field, said his friend Tom Dettweiler, a fellow ocean explorer. The president of The Explorers Club said the group is heartbroken over the tragic loss. Two passengers, businessman Harding and Nargeolet, were members, it said. Engro Corporation Limited, of which Shahzada Dawood was Vice Chairman, said the company grieves the loss of him and his son. The governments of Pakistan and the United Kingdom also offered condolences.
6:54 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

White House thanks Coast Guard and international partners for search efforts

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

The White House thanked the US Coast Guard and international partners for their search and rescue efforts for the submersible that went missing on its way to the Titanic wreckage.

"This has been a testament to the skill and professionalism that the men and women who serve our nation continue to demonstrate every single day," a White House spokesperson said.

Earlier Thursday, the Coast Guard thanked experts and agencies from all over the world for assisting in the effort, calling it a “huge international” and “interagency” search.

The White House spokesperson also expressed sympathy for the families of the five passengers onboard the submersible.

“Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives on the Titan. They have been through a harrowing ordeal over the past few days, and we are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers," the spokesperson said.

7:54 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

Passengers lost in the "catastrophic implosion" of the Titan submersible remembered by loved ones

From CNN's Sugam Pokharel, Francesca Giuliani-Hoffman, Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi and Sofia Cox in Atlanta

From left, Hamish Harding, Shahzada Dawood, Suleman Dawood, Paul-Henri Nargeolet and Stockton Rush.
From left, Hamish Harding, Shahzada Dawood, Suleman Dawood, Paul-Henri Nargeolet and Stockton Rush. Obtained by CNN

The Titan submersible bound for the Titanic that went missing on Sunday with five people on board suffered a “catastrophic implosion,” US Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mauger said Thursday.

Now those who knew the passengers are grappling with their tragic loss and some have sent messages of condolences as their legacies are remembered.

Engro Corporation Limited, where Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood was vice chairman, issued a statement on the deaths of Dawood and his son Suleman — who were among the five people on board the Titan submersible.

“With heavy hearts and with great sadness, we grieve the loss of our Vice Chairman, Shahzada Dawood, and his beloved son, Suleman Dawood. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Dawood family at this tragic time. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family, colleagues, friends, and all those around the world who grieve this unthinkable loss,” the company tweeted on Thursday.

Dubai-based Action Aviation, the company owned by passenger Hamish Harding released a statement on behalf of his family.

“Today, we are united in grief with the other families who have also lost their loved ones on the Titan submersible," the statement read. "Hamish Harding was a loving husband to his wife and a dedicated father to his two sons, whom he loved deeply. To his team in Action Aviation, he was a guide, an inspiration, a support, and a Living Legend."

The statement went on to praise the efforts made to search for the Titan sub.

"We know that Hamish would have been immensely proud to see how nations, experts, industry colleagues and friends came together for the search, and we extend our heartfelt thanks for all their efforts. On behalf of the Harding family and Action Aviation, we would like to politely request privacy at this incredibly difficult time," it said.

The family of French diver Paul-Henri Nargeolet said he will "be remembered as one of the greatest deep-sea explorers in modern history."

The statement signed by Nargeolet’s children and wife said that they hope people think about Paul-Henri and his work when they think about the Titanic, "but what we will remember him most for is his big heart, his incredible sense of humor and how much he loved his family. We will miss him today and every day for the rest of our lives."

His stepson, John Paschall, described him as an “incredible stepfather” and someone who was caring and had a great sense of humor. He recalled how his mother and Nargeolot drove across the country to attend his college graduation in 2014 after their flight got canceled.

“They hop into their small, blue Mini Cooper and they drive 16 hours across the country from Connecticut to Chicago, drive through the night. I am quite certain that he did a lot of the driving. They showed up with one hour to spare for graduation,” he told CNN. “They made it there. At that time, my mom was very sick of cancer and meant so much to me that she could be there for that moment. That is something I will never forget about him.”
6:47 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

US Navy detected implosion on Sunday and relayed information to search efforts, official says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

The US Navy detected an acoustic signature consistent with an implosion on Sunday in the general area where the Titan submersible was diving in the North Atlantic when it lost communication with its support ship, according to a senior Navy official.

The Navy immediately relayed that information to the on-scene commanders leading the search effort, the official said Thursday, adding that information was used to narrow down the area of the search.

But the sound of the implosion was determined to be “not definitive,” the official said, and the multinational efforts to find the submersible continued as a search and rescue effort.

“Any chance of saving a life is worth continuing the mission,” the official said.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report about the acoustic signature picked up by the Navy.

Audio of the implosion was picked up by a network of sensors as part of an underwater Navy acoustic listening system, said the official, who declined to go into more detail about the secret system. The network of sensors allowed the Navy to zero-in on a possible location of the noise, providing search teams with a more refined area. 

The Navy also helped analyze the audio signatures of banging and other acoustic data that were heard throughout the search efforts. Those were likely some form of natural life or sounds given off by other ships and vessels that were part of the search effort, the official said.

5:56 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

Expert describes how robots and other machinery will help recover Titan wreckage

A single vessel, if properly equipped, and remotely controlled vehicles on the seafloor would likely be capable of recovering the wreckage of the Titan submersible, Capt. Mark Martin, a salvage master and deep submergence pilot, said Thursday.

The ship would need a crane with a wire that can reach a depth of 4,000 meters (about 2 and a half miles), which can be found on many vessels involved in offshore gas and oil construction, Martin said in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.

Recovery crews will also need one or two remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, which have already played a key role in the search for signs of Titan, the captain said. The ROVs are large, powerful machines that can be controlled from the vessel above them.

The ROVs will work in concert with the crane to scoop pieces of the sub into large "recovery baskets," which Martin said look like half of a shipping container made of mesh.

ROVs will pick up pieces with their arms and move them into baskets, or help attach pieces to straps for the crane, which will lift pieces to the surface, he said.

5:17 p.m. ET, June 22, 2023

Director James Cameron says he sees similarities between Titanic wreck and submersible tragedy

From CNN’s Lisa France

The port bow railing of the Titanic is seen in an undated photo.
The port bow railing of the Titanic is seen in an undated photo. Reuters/File

James Cameron, who directed the hit 1997 film "Titanic" and has made 33 dives to the wreckage, said he saw some similarities between the Titan tragedy and the sinking of the famous ship it was bound for.

"I'm struck by the similarity of the Titanic disaster itself, where the captain was repeatedly warned about ice ahead of his ship and yet steamed at full speed into an ice field on a moonless night and many people died as a result," Cameron told ABC News Thursday.

He added, "And with a very similar tragedy where warnings went unheeded to take place at the same exact site with all the diving that's going on all around the world I think it's just astonishing. It's really quite surreal."