OceanGate rescuers reveal devastating moment they realised Titan sub crew were dead after finding debris field

1 September 2023, 09:56 | Updated: 1 September 2023, 09:58

Rescuers revealed the heart-stopping moment they found the debris.
Rescuers revealed the heart-stopping moment they found the debris. Picture: Alamy/OceanGate

By Jenny Medlicott

Rescuers who found the remains of the Titan sub have described the devastating moment they realised the search for the missing sub had become a recovery operation.

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Those who carried out the rescue mission have revealed the chain of events that followed after the Titan sub was first reported missing.

The Titan sub lost communication with company operatives on the surface on June 18, sparking a huge search. Debris was found on the sea floor days later and rescuers said that the sub had suffered a catastrophic implosion.

OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, UK billionaire Hamish Harding, French explorer Paul Henry Nargeolet, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman were those on board the sub.

Jesse Doren, a deep sea expert, and his team at Pelagic Research Services carried out the search operation.

The team said they knew they only had "one shot" at the rescue but when they found the debris field containing parts of the Titan, they realised it had become a recovery operation.

“Upon coming into the debris field there was a pause,” recalled Pelagic CEO Ed Cassano.

“Everyone's a professional, but you can't help but be impacted... it took us a moment to really understand and think about what it meant," he told Sky News.

Read more: New Titanic sub expedition put together just weeks after OceanGate disaster as US government rushes to block it

Read more: OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush thought he was acting 'for the good of humanity' with doomed Titan sub descent

Read more: OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush had ‘meltdown’ after getting another sub stuck in wreck in 2016

Pelagic CEO Edward Cassano was among the rescuers.
Pelagic CEO Edward Cassano was among the rescuers. Picture: Alamy

The team said they had been non-stop thinking about the crew and their families during the search, hoping they could perform a miracle.

"We'd spent four or five days... expecting to go down there and perform a miracle," Mr Doren said.

"Obviously, our sense of disappointment is miniscule compared to the people who are close to the families of those who were lost."

Mr Cassano held back tears as he confirmed his team’s discovery of the sub’s debris on Friday 23 June.

"I have to apologise, we’re still demobilising, there’s a lot of emotions, people are tired," he said at a press conference in New York.

"We are very saddened we could not recover a viable sub, but beyond that the system performed."

The Titan sub was located by a remotely-operated vehicle called the Odysseus 6K on Thursday 22 June.

Mr Cassano said after they made the discovery the US Coast Guard immediately got in touch with the family of the passengers that were on board.

The Titan sub suffered a catastrophic implosion in June.
The Titan sub suffered a catastrophic implosion in June. Picture: Alamy

The Canada Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate the catastrophe, as it hopes to prevent a similar event from ever occurring again.

Human remains were recovered from the debris of the sub in June, which DNA tests continue to be carried out on.

Following the incident, it emerged that safety concerns were raised multiple times before, with several people including Ross Kemp and YouTuber Mr Beast having dropped out of doing similar trips.

As the Titanic wreckage is in international waters and the OceanGate expeditions were not operating out of a port, the trips were not subject to safety regulations.

Social media accounts and website for OceanGate has now disappeared, and the company has instead simply left a holding statement saying it has suspended its operations.