'Trapped... and no-one can reach them': Friend of billionaire on Oceangate Titanic submarine tells of her biggest fear

20 June 2023, 12:38 | Updated: 20 June 2023, 13:09

Hamish Harding, pictured with explorer friend Jannicke Mikkelsen
Hamish Harding, pictured with explorer friend Jannicke Mikkelsen. Picture: Facebook/Alamy

By Asher McShane

A friend of the British billionaire missing on a submarine sightseeing trip to the wreck of the titanic has said he fears the craft is trapped on the sea bed.

Norwegian explorer and cinematographer Jannicke Mikkelsen, is a pal of Hamish Harding, 58, who is one of five people on board the missing submersible.

She said “my biggest fear is knowing they are trapped, without being able to get help.

“There is no one who can reach him on the bottom.”

Mr Harding is one of five people on the $250,000 trip - which usually takes eight hours.

Contact with the mothership was lost one hour and 45 minutes into the trip, before the sub had reached the wreck. There is now a race against time to find and rescue the people on board - with oxygen due to run out at midday on Thursday.

Read more: Race against time: Titanic sub search has hours to find missing explorers as experts warn of difficult rescue mission

Read more: From British billionaire to French explorer and Pakistani businessman: who's on board the missing Titanic sub?

Places on the sub cost up to $250,000
Places on the sub cost up to $250,000. Picture: Alamy

“My fear is that they didn't make their last ascent window,” Mikkelsen told Chris Cuomo on NewsNation. “We are starting to make worst case scenarios.”

G. Michael Harris, a Titanic expedition leader, told Fox News: “Just not feeling good about it.

“When we deploy it's usually a two and a half hour drop down to the wreck site itself.

“We go down 3,980 meters. We spiral down, a corkscrew action, about three degrees per second to land right basically in front of the bow of Titanic.

Jannicke Mikkelsen, a Norwegian explorer, pictured with Hamish Harding, who is on the missing sub
Jannicke Mikkelsen, a Norwegian explorer, pictured with Hamish Harding, who is on the missing sub. Picture: Facebook

“Once we get down there we begin our grid searches and our decay and everything that goes on with Titanic.”

He said the worst situation would be an implosion of the hull at a depth of around 3,200 meters.

Those on board the sub include British billionaire Mr Harding, UK-based Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his 19-year-old son Sulaiman Dawood.

French world-renowned explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet and OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush make up the other two occupants of the sub.

There is now a race against against time for rescue crews from the US and Canada to find the 21ft vessel, which is understood to have last 'pinged' whilst it was directly above the Titanic.

Hamish Harding, 58, is one of five people on board the sub
Hamish Harding, 58, is one of five people on board the sub. Picture: Alamy

No10 said the Foreign Office is in contact with the family of Mr Harding, as the rescue operation for the tourist submersible off the coast of Canada continues.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The FCDO are in contact with Hamish Harding's family and the local authorities.

"We stand ready to provide any additional assistance, including as our capacity as the host nation for Nato's multinational submarine rescue capacity."

Downing Street said the Government was ready to provide support and assistance, but was not aware of a request from the family of Hamish Harding for help.

"We are ready to provide assistance. At this stage I'm not aware they've specifically requested assistance from our capacity, which is based in Clyde in the the naval base there.

"Clearly it is a complex rescue mission at significant depth," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

"We would wait to see what may or may not be required.

"We are in contact with the relevant authorities and are ready to provide assistance, but clearly it is an unusual rescue operation given the depths involved."

An expert on the history of the Titanic has said he is "very worried about the souls" on board the missing submersible.

Tim Maltin, an author, historian and TV presenter said the tourists were in a difficult situation.

Mr Maltin told the BBC: "If it's near the Titanic it would be easier to find, but the problem is of course you can't do a ship-to-ship transfer even, the pressure is absolutely intense.

"It's nearly two miles miles down, it's pitch black.

"So I also am very, very worried about the souls who are on board."

He added: "I think they're quite brave people who have been down there, but equally they know the risks but no one expects it to go wrong on your dive."