Race against clock looking for missing WA submersible near Titanic

Jun 20, 2023, 7:07 AM | Updated: 9:32 am

missing submersible...

The submersible Titan is part of the fleet with OceanGate Expeditions, which offers people the chance to go on a deep-sea expedition down to the wreck of the Titanic for $250,000 each. (Photo from KIRO 7)

(Photo from KIRO 7)

Five people are missing underwater after an expedition near the wreckage of the Titanic on an Everett company’s submersible vessel. Search efforts are underway in the North Atlantic Ocean in a race against time.

The submersible Titan is part of the fleet with OceanGate Expeditions, which offers people the chance to go on a deep-sea expedition down to the wreck of the Titanic for $250,000 each.

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According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the vessel was carrying five people — a pilot and four passengers — when it started its expedition Friday morning. A crew member on the sea capsule sent a report of trouble about two hours after it began its descent Sunday.

The owner of OceanGate, an Everett-based company operating the sub — is trapped on the vessel, according to a new report from Bloomberg.

Stockton Rush, a Seattle resident, is there, potentially near the bottom of the sea, as rescuers from multiple government agencies and other organizations frantically search for the sub with planes, boats, and sonar.

An adviser to Oceangate told the Associated Press that the submersible has a 96-hour supply of oxygen. As of Tuesday morning, it will have been 68 hours since the submersible last left the surface, leaving around 48 hours of air. The AP also confirmed with Action Aviation that the company’s chairman, Hamish Harding, is one of the passengers on board.

Also on board were Pakistani nationals Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, according to a family statement sent to the AP. The Dawoods belong to one of Pakistan’s most prominent families. Their eponymous firm invests across the country in agriculture, industries and the health sector.

OceanGate spokesman and Director, Andrew Von Kerens, released the following statement Tuesday:

“For some time, we have been unable to establish communications with one of our submersible exploration vehicles which is currently visiting the wreck site of the Titanic. Our entire focus is on the wellbeing of the crew and every step possible is being taken to bring the five crew members back safely. We are deeply grateful for the urgent and extensive assistance we are receiving from multiple government agencies and deep-sea companies as we seek to reestablish contact with the submersible. We pray for the safe return of the crew and passengers, and we will provide updates as they are available.”

The U.S. Coast Guard says it is assisting with search and rescue efforts. Officials with the Port of Everett are aware of the situation. In a statement, they said, “Our thoughts are with our OceanGate family, the crew on board, and their families right now as we all anxiously await a positive outcome.”

Coast Guard officials are saying there are two possible theories as to what happened.

One is that the submersible had an electrical or communications problem and has floated to the surface and is waiting to be found. The second is the pressure hull was compromised, causing a leak.

Retired United Kingdom Navy Rear Admiral Chris Parry has a theory on what might have happened on the submarine.

“There’s an optimistic option, and that is that either lost an umbilical communication with the surface or indeed, there’s been a malfunction and the submarine is continuing to operate, but obviously out of contact with its mother ship,” Parry said.

Last year, KIRO 7 talked with the Stockton Rush, founder and CEO of OceanGate just before a five-person crew dove into the deep sea.

“Realizing that there’s really one object in the ocean that everyone on planet earth knows and that’s Titanic. And that makes it possible for us to do these very expensive and very complicated missions. There’s just this huge fascination,” said Rush.

At the time, Rush said it takes two and a half hours to get to the ship.

“You’ll see the weirdest things you’d ever see… things with two eyeballs and a gelatinous back end and stuff coming off it, but it’ll go racing by and you’ll be like, ‘What was that?’ I love sitting by the dome for that descent because you’ll see the most bizarre creatures,” said Rush.

KIRO 7 contributed to this report

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