Tributes are being paid to the three British citizens among five men who died after the Titan sub suffered a “catastrophic implosion”.
The family of British billionaire Hamish Harding have described him as “a guide, an inspiration, a support and a living legend” after the company behind the voyage said those on board “have sadly been lost”.
In a statement, Mr Harding’s relatives said they are “united in grief with the other families who have also lost their loved ones” – and the 58-year-old will be remembered as a loving husband and a dedicated father.
They added: “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.”
Just some of Mr Harding’s accomplishments included earning a Guinness world record for the fastest circumnavigation of the Earth via the North and South Poles by an aircraft.
The adventurer also holds the world record for the longest duration at full ocean depth by a crewed vessel, accompanied Buzz Aldrin to the South Pole, and took part in a human space flight.
Mr Harding’s family said “he will leave a gap in our lives that can never be filled” – but added that the extensive search and rescue effort would have made him proud.
Relatives of Shahzada and Suleman Dawood – the other two British citizens onboard – have also released a statement.
The father and son were members of one of Pakistan’s most prominent families – and a “difficult period of mourning has begun”.
Their loved ones said: “We are truly grateful to all those involved in the rescue operations. Their untiring efforts were a source of strength for us during this time.
“We are also indebted to our friends, family, colleagues and well-wishers from around the world who have stood by us during our hour of need. The immense love and support we receive continues to help us to endure this unimaginable loss.”
The Titan sub got into difficulty while on its third voyage to the Titanic wreck – and OceanGate, which organised the expedition, confirmed the fatalities earlier on Thursday.
OceanGate’s founder Stockton Rush – and French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet – were also onboard.
A statement from the company said: “These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans. Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew.”
Questions remain about Titan’s mechanical and safety issues
It was the outcome that nobody wanted but everyone feared.
As time passed in this search, the prospect of a happy ending diminished.
Coordinators had spoken of hope but throughout they had managed expectations – emphasising the scale of the challenge, calling it “enormously complex”, in an offshore environment they described as “incredibly unforgiving”.
So there was a sense of inevitability about the announcement that debris had been found – the Coastguard news conference on Boston’s harbour side was laced with sorrow, if not surprise.
Questions will continue to be asked about the Titan, its condition and suitability to make the trip.
Mechanical and safety issues remain a big part of this story.
There has been much criticism of the vessel’s structure before, during and after it went missing.
OceanGate, the company that owned the Titan, issued a statement in which it described the five on board as “true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure”. No doubt.
No doubt, either, that in pursuit of adventure, they deserved transport they could count on.
Misplaced trust cost them their lives as they sought a glimpse of the Titanic.
Disasters do tend to attract disaster.
Maritime investigators will consider whether, in the case of the Titan, this was one waiting to happen.
OceanGate added that its employees were “exhausted and grieving deeply over this loss” – describing it as “a very sad time for the entire explorer community”.
Mr Rush’s friend – ocean scientist Greg Stone – described him as a “risk-taker” with a vision, while the company that Mr Nargeolet worked for said “the maritime world has lost an iconic and inspiration leader in deep-sea exploration”.
Rescue expert David Mearns knew Mr Harding and Mr Nargeolet personally.
In an emotive interview, he told Sky News that his “worst fears have now been realised” – and he had been praying for a different outcome.
“Two friends of mine are gone,” Mr Mearns said.
Both men were members of The Explorers Club – and in a statement, it said all five on board “will continue to inspire us in the name of science and exploration”.
Another club member and friend of Mr Harding, Mark Hannaford, said: “As explorers we are typically an optimistic bunch – and whilst there was a slim hope of survival, we strove to recover and save Hamish and his fellow travellers.
“But fate has not allowed that.”