he family of British billionaire Hamish Harding have described him as “one of a kind” after the company that owns the missing Titan submersible confirmed all five people on board are dead with debris found 1,600ft from the famous wreck.
OceanGate Expeditions said its pilot and chief executive Stockton Rush – along with UK citizens Mr Harding, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, and French national Paul-Henri Nargeolet, “have sadly been lost.”
Relatives of the Dawoods, from London, urged well-wishers to keep their “departed souls and our family in your prayers during this difficult period of mourning” as they also thanked the rescue operation.
They added: “The immense love and support we receive continues to help us to endure this unimagineable loss.”
In a statement released by Mr Harding’s company Action Aviation, his family said: “Today we are united in grief with the other families who have also lost their loved ones.
“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.
“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.
“He will leave a gap in our lives that can never be filled. 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.”
The US Coast Guard offered its “deepest condolences” to the families after the tail cone of the submersible was found by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) around 1,600ft from the bow of the wreck of the Titanic, which sank in 1912, and said their remains may never be found after the craft suffered a “catastrophic implosion”.
In a press conference, Rear Admiral John Mauger said further debris was “consistent with a catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber”.
He said: “This morning, an ROV, or remote operated vehicle from the vessel Horizon Arctic discovered the tail cone of the Titan submersible approximately 1,600ft from the bow of the Titanic on the sea floor.
“The ROV subsequently found additional debris. In consultation with experts from within the unified command, the debris is consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber.
“Upon this determination, we immediately notified the families.
“On behalf of the United States Coast Guard and the entire unified command, I offer my deepest condolences to the families. I can only imagine what this has been like for them.
“And I hope that this discovery provides some solace during this difficult time.”
Asked about the prospects of recovering the bodies of those killed on the Titan expedition, the rear admiral said: “This is an incredibly unforgiving environment down there on the sea floor and the debris is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel.
“And so we’ll continue to work and continue to search the area down there, but I don’t have an answer for prospects at this time.”
In a statement, OceanGate Expeditions said: “This is an extremely sad time for our dedicated employees who are exhausted and grieving deeply over this loss.
“The entire OceanGate family is deeply grateful for the countless men and women from multiple organisations of the international community who expedited wide-ranging resources and have worked so very hard on this mission.
“We appreciate their commitment to finding these five explorers, and their days and nights of tireless work in support of our crew and their families.
“This is a very sad time for the entire explorer community, and for each of the family members of those lost at sea.
“We respectfully ask that the privacy of these families be respected during this most painful time.”
The dead men include British businessman and explorer Hamish Harding and Shahzada Dawood, the Surbiton-based vice chairman of one of Pakistan’s largest companies, and his teenage son Suleman who was a student in Glasgow.
The President of the Explorers Club, of which Mr Harding was a member, said he was “heartbroken for the families, friends and colleagues of those were lost”.
In a statement, Richard Garriott de Cayeux said: “Their memories will be a blessing and continue to inspire us in the name of science and exploration.”
The press conference heard the discovery of five major pieces of debris allowed search teams to identify the remains of the craft.
A Coast Guard spokesman also said the position of the debris made it unlikely the craft had collided with the remains of the Titanic.
They added that underwater sounds and banging noises detected in the search area for the Titan were likely unrelated to the missing submersible.
The sounds, heard over two days, gave hope to searchers and those watching the massive effort unfold since Sunday, when the vessel was reported missing, but ultimately seems irrelevant.
Experts say the ocean floor is a “noisy” place and a potential connection between the banging and the Titan were unlikely.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly described the deaths of the pilot and four passengers on the missing Titan submersible as “tragic”.
He tweeted: “Tragic news that those on the Titan submersible, including three British citizens, have been lost following an international search operation.
“The UK Government is closely supporting the families affected and expresses our deepest condolences.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry offered its “deepest condolences” to the Dawood family and the families of other passengers.
In a Twitter post, a spokesman said: “We appreciate the multi-national efforts over the last several days in search of the vessel.”
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