A submersible carrying five people to the Titanic imploded near the site of the shipwreck and killed everyone on board, authorities said Thursday, bringing a tragic end to a saga that included an urgent around-the-clock search and a worldwide vigil for the missing vessel.
The sliver of hope that remained for finding the five men alive was wiped away early Thursday, when the submersible’s 96-hour supply of oxygen was expected to run out following its Sunday launch and the Coast Guard announced that debris had been found roughly 1,600 feet (488 meters) from the Titanic in North Atlantic waters.
"This was a catastrophic implosion of the vessel," said Rear Adm. John Mauger, of the First Coast Guard District.
After the craft was reported missing, the U.S. Navy went back and analyzed its acoustic data and found an anomaly that was "consistent with an implosion or explosion in the general vicinity of where the Titan submersible was operating when communications were lost," a senior Navy official told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive acoustic detection system.
The Navy passed on that information to the Coast Guard, which continued its search because the Navy did not consider the data to be definitive.
OceanGate Expeditions, the company that owned and operated the submersible, said in a statement that all five people in the vessel, including CEO and pilot Stockton Rush, "have sadly been lost."
The others on board were two members of a prominent Pakistani family, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood; British adventurer Hamish Harding; and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet.
An undated photo shows tourist submersible belongs to OceanGate begins to descent at a sea. (Photo by Ocean Gate / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
"These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans," OceanGate said in a statement. "We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew."
OceanGate has been chronicling the Titanic’s decay and the underwater ecosystem around it via yearly voyages since 2021. The company has not responded to additional questions about the Titan's voyage this week.
The Coast Guard will continue searching for more signs about what happened to the Titan.
While the Navy likely detected the implosion Sunday through its acoustics system, underwater sounds heard Tuesday and Wednesday — which initially gave hope for a possible rescue — were probably unrelated to the submersible. The Navy's possible clue was not known publicly until Thursday, when The Wall Street Journal first reported it.
With a search area covering thousands of miles — twice the size of Connecticut and in waters 2 1/2 miles (4 kilometers) deep — rescuers all week rushed ships, planes and other equipment to the site of the disappearance.
Broadcasters around the world started newscasts at the critical hour Thursday with news of the submersible. The Saudi-owned satellite channel Al Arabiya showed a clock on air counting down to their estimate of when the air could potentially run out.
The White House thanked the U.S. Coast Guard, along with Canadian, British and French partners who helped in the search and rescue efforts.
"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," it said in a statement.
The Titan launched at 6 a.m. Sunday and was reported overdue that afternoon about 435 miles (700 kilometers) south of St. John’s, Newfoundland. By Thursday, when the oxygen supply was expected to run out, there was little hope of finding the crew alive.
In 2021 and 2022, at least 46 people successfully traveled on OceanGate’s submersible to the Titanic site, according to letters the company filed with a U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Virginia, that oversees matters involving the shipwreck. But questions about the submersible’s safety were raised by former passengers.
One of the company’s first customers likened a dive he made to the site two years ago to a suicide mission.
"Imagine a metal tube a few meters long with a sheet of metal for a floor. You can’t stand. You can’t kneel. Everyone is sitting close to or on top of each other," said Arthur Loibl, a retired businessman and adventurer from Germany. "You can’t be claustrophobic."
In this U.S. Coast Guard handout, a Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina HC-130 Hercules airplane flies over the French research vessel, L'Atalante, approximately 900 miles East of Cape Cod during the search for the 21-foot submersi
During the 2 1/2-hour descent and ascent, the lights were turned off to conserve energy, he said, with the only illumination coming from a fluorescent glow stick.
The dive was repeatedly delayed to fix a problem with the battery and the balancing weights. In total, the voyage took 10 1/2 hours.
Nicolai Roterman, a deep-sea ecologist and lecturer in marine biology at the University of Portsmouth, England, said the disappearance of the Titan highlights the dangers and unknowns of deep-sea tourism.
"Even the most reliable technology can fail, and therefore accidents will happen," Roterman said. "With the growth in deep-sea tourism, we must expect more incidents like this."
Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia; Frank Jordans in Berlin; Danica Kirka in London; and John Leicester in Paris contributed to this report.