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.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry sent condolences to the Dawood family after OceanGate announced they believe all the individuals on the Titan submersible have been lost.
Prominent Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman were among the five people in the submersible.
“Our deepest condolences to the Dawood family and the family of other passengers on the sad news about the fate of Titanic submersible in the North Atlantic. We appreciate the multinational efforts over the last several days in search of the vessel,” the foreign ministry statement read.
OceanGate co-founder Guillermo Söhnlein responded to news of the loss of the Titan crew, including CEO Stockton Rush calling it tragic, during an interview Thursday with CNN.
“It’s a tragic loss for the families and for the ocean exploration community in general. All five crew members were passionate explorers. And they died doing what they believed in,” Söhnlein told CNN. “Those of us in the community that work at that depth, know that that’s always a risk. There’s pressure down so intense that if there is a failure, it is an instant, catastrophic failure. And we all know that it’s a risk.”
CNN has previously reported that two former employees, who were not engineers, raised safety concerns about the thickness of the Titan’s hull years ago when it was built.
Söhnlein defended Rush’s approach to designing and deploying Titan and said he was not a “risk taker,” he was a “risk manager.” Sohnlein said he had “complete faith” in Rush and would have gone on the Titanic expedition had he had the chance.
“We won’t know anything until the investigation is complete and all the data is collected, so I’ll reserve judgment on that,” Söhnlein said. “But I’ve known him for 15 years and none of this would change my mind.”
Söhnlein said he hasn’t had an operational role in the company for the last decade, but does have a minority ownership stake and has remained in touch with Rush.
The president of The Explorers Club said the group is heartbroken over the tragic loss of the individuals on the Titan vessel on Thursday.
“Our friends and fellow Explorers Club members Hamish Harding and Paul-Henri Nargeolet are lost, along with Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, while trying to reach the RMS Titanic,” President Richard Garriott de Cayeux said in a statement.
He thanked the many groups involved in the search and rescue mission and the many others around the world “who have mobilized personnel and resources to support the search and rescue.”
“Hamish Harding is a dear friend to me personally and to The Explorers Club. He holds several world records and has continued to push dragons off maps both in person and through supporting expeditions and worthy causes. Paul-Henri was elected to the Club in 2001 and was one of the foremost experts on submersible expeditions to the Titanic,” Garriott de Cayeux said.
He said both Harding and Nargeolet were “drawn to explore” to try to advance science and “for the betterment of mankind.” Garriott de Cayeux added that Rush, who was the CEO and chairman of OceanGate who operated the Titan, was a friend of the club and gave lectures at its headquarters.
“While we did not know Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman personally, their desire to explore as a family would have led them to our doorstep at some point in their futures, where we would have welcomed them,” he said.
A Defense Department spokesperson said it is “very sad to hear” about the statement by OceanGate that it believes the individuals on the company’s submersible have been lost.
“I was not tracking that statement, so breaking news here in the briefing room and very sad to hear that,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder after CNN’s Natasha Bertrand informed him of the statement at a press briefing.
Ryder said the Defense Department’s focus would be “on supporting the Coast Guard and their efforts as we go forward.”
The Titan submersible — now believed to have suffered a “catastrophic implosion” that killed five people on board — had originally embarked on a journey into the depths of the sea off Canada’s coast.
Titan’s ultimate destination was the Titanic’s wreckage, which sits at the bottom of the ocean nearly 13,000 feet below the surface southeast of Newfoundland.
As authorities now seek to better understand what went wrong with the sub, they’re dealing with an “incredibly complex operating environment on the sea floor, over two miles beneath the surface,” a US Coast Guard official said Thursday.
Here’s a look at a map of the area:
US Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mauger said teams had the appropriate gear in the search effort for the Titan submersible.
Teams were “able to mobilize an immense amount of gear to the site in just really a remarkable amount of time,” he said Thursday, especially “given the fact that we started without any sort of vessel response plan for this or any sort of pre-staged resources.”
He reiterated the capabilities of the Pelagic remotely operating vehicle used as of Thursday morning.
A spokesperson for Pelagic Research Services confirmed to CNN that its ROV, which was the first to conduct a search for the submersible on the sea floor, found the debris field.
“So we really had the right gear on-site and worked as swiftly as possible to bring all of the capabilities that we had to bear to this search and rescue effort,” Mauger said.
He called it a “huge international” and “interagency” effort.
“This was an immense support, and we had the right gear on the bottom to find it,” he said as the news conference ended.
Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a French diver and one of the passengers on the Titan submersible, was an incredible person and highly respected in his field, said his friend Tom Dettweiler, a fellow ocean explorer.
“He was just an incredible person, very professional all the time, but yet, just an incredibly likable person. Everybody who knew PH loved him. And I think — as you’ve probably seen over the last few days — there were a lot of people who knew PH and highly respected him. He’s just — He’s just one of those figures that stood out in the entire industry,” Dettweiler told CNN.
Nargeolet had a distinguished career as a naval officer and worked in many French programs for undersea exploration, Dettweiler said.
The Titanic had become an important part of Nargeolet’s life, he said, adding: “I don’t think he would consider it a necessarily bad place to be buried.”
Authorities will begin to demobilize the medical personnel and nine vessels involved in the Titanic submersible search over the course of the next 24 hours, US Coast Guard Rear Adm. John Mauger said Thursday.
Remote operations will continue on the sea floor for an undetermined amount of time, he added.
Mauger said it is “too early” to discuss whether there will be an investigation, which he said would be a decision made outside of the search efforts he was in charge of.