The family of a British billionaire adventurer who died after the Titan submersible suffered a catastrophic implosion have paid tribute to their “dedicated father”.
Hamish Harding was described as “a guide, an inspiration, a support, and a living legend” following the news of his death on Thursday.
The US Coast Guard confirmed the tail cone of the deep-sea vessel was discovered around 500 metres from the bow of the Titanic wreckage during a press conference in Boston.
Rear Admiral John Mauger said further debris was also found, in the North Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Newfoundland, that was “consistent with a catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber”.
OceanGate Expeditions said its pilot and chief executive Stockton Rush – along with Harding and fellow UK citizens Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood, and French national Paul-Henri Nargeolet, “have sadly been lost.”
In a short statement, Harding’s family said: “He was one of a kind and we adored him.
“He was a passionate explorer – whatever the terrain – who lived his life for his family, his business and for the next adventure.
“What he achieved in his lifetime was truly remarkable and if we can take any small consolation from this tragedy, it’s that we lost him doing what he loved.”
Harding’s family said his death has left a “gap in our lives that can never be filled”, and that they were “united in grief” with the families of the others who had died.
“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,” they said.
Shahzada Dawood’s company paid tribute to him and his son after their deaths.
In a statement, Engro Corporation, the Pakistani conglomerate that Dawood was vice chairman of, said: “With heavy hearts and 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.”
Rear Admiral Mauger said there did not appear to be any connection between the underwater noises detected during the search and rescue mission and the location of the debris on the seafloor.
“This was a catastrophic implosion of the vessel which would have generated a significant broadband sound down there that the sonar buoys would have picked up,” he said.
Undersea expert Paul Hankin said five major pieces of debris helped to identify it as from the Titan submersible – including the vessel’s nose cone and the front end bell of the pressure hull.
According to court documents, safety concerns had previously been raised about the Titan submersible by a former employee of OceanGate.
The filings said David Lochridge, OceanGate’s former director of marine operations, claimed wrongful dismissal after flagging worries about the company’s alleged “refusal to conduct critical, non-destructive testing of the experimental design”.
Court papers suggest Lochridge “identified numerous issues that posed serious safety concerns” but he was allegedly “met with hostility and denial of access” to necessary documents before later being fired.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly described the update as “tragic news” and said the UK Government is closely supporting the British families affected.
The White House said the families of those who died had “been through a harrowing ordeal over the past few days, and we are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers.”
A “debris field” matching the submersible was discovered by a robotic deep-sea vessel on Thursday.
Here is a timeline of the events leading up to the discovery:
Friday, June 16
The expedition sets off from St John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.
Saturday, June 17
British billionaire and adventurer Hamish Harding, one of those on board the submersible, posts on Facebook: “Due to the worst winter in Newfoundland in 40 years, this mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023. A weather window has just opened up, and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow.”
“More expedition updates to follow IF the weather holds!”
Sunday, June 18
04am ET (08:00 GMT) – This is when the submersible was originally planned to start its descent, according to a post by Harding on Instagram. But the descent starts four hours later, according to the US Coast Guard.
8am ET (12:00 GMT) – Titan submersible starts what should be a two-hour descent to the Titanic wreck, which lies at a depth of 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) in the North Atlantic, US Coast Guard says.
9:45am ET (13:45 GMT) – Communications between the submersible and the surface vessel are lost an hour and 45 minutes after starting its descent, the US Coast Guard says.
3pm ET (19:00 GMT) – The submersible is scheduled to return to the surface, the US Coast Guard says. It fails to appear.
5:40pm ET (21:40 GMT)– Coast Guard receives a report about an overdue submersible from the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince with five people on board diving to view the Titanic wreck about 900 nautical miles (1667km) east of Cape Cod on the US coast.
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Monday, June 19
US and Canadian ships and planes are swarming the area, some dropping sonobuoys that can monitor to a depth of 13,000 feet (4,000 metres), US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger says. He adds it is a remote area and a challenge to conduct a search. Officials have also asked commercial vessels for help.
Officials say if the submersible is still intact, it is estimated to have between 70 and 96 hours of oxygen.
Tuesday, June 20
Morning – The family of Pakistani-born businessman Shahzada Dawood confirms he is on board with his 19-year-old son Suleman.
10:50am ET (14:50 GMT) – France says it will help with the search by deploying Atalante, a ship equipped with a deep-sea diving vessel.
During the day – Sounds detected over several hours by Canadian Lockheed P-3 Orion aircraft, equipped with gear to trace submarines. The US Coast Guard – which announces this on Wednesday – does not give a precise timing.
Media reports say Canadian aircraft detected banging sounds at 30-minute intervals.
Harding’s friend, Jannicke Mikkelsen, says: “And as it stands right now, it would be a miracle if they are recovered alive.”
The search becomes a big international operation. More ships, underwater vessels and aircraft join the mission.
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Wednesday, June 21
During the day – US Coast Guard, US Navy, Canadian Coast Guard and OceanGate Expeditions establish a unified command to handle the search.
2am ET (06:00 GMT) – US Coast Guard announces Canadian P-3 aircraft detected underwater noises. It says remotely operated vehicle (ROV) searches are directed to the area of the sounds and the data are also sent to US Navy experts for analysis.
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Thursday, June 22
6am (10:00 GMT) – Rough deadline for when the oxygen in the submersible will run out, based on the US Coast Guard’s estimate. The vessel has 96 hours of supply from the time it is sealed, according to its specifications. This depends on the vessel being intact and other factors, such as whether the sub still has power in the icy depths.
2pm (18:00 GMT) – A debris field that was found near the wreckage of the Titanic in the North Atlantic contains the pieces of the Titan submersible, officials said.
3pm (19:00 GMT) – The debris was consistent with loss of the pressure chamber and an implosion, the US Coast Guard said. There were no survivors, it added.
▪︎ By NAN, Aljazeera, other agencies