Titan sub's final moments revealed as crew was told they would be in total darkness for descent to Titanic wreck

3 July 2023, 06:05

Suleman and Shahzada were killed aboard the Titan
Suleman and Shahzada were killed aboard the Titan. Picture: Handout/Oceangate

By Will Taylor

The Titan submersible's final moments have been recalled by the heartbroken wife and mother of two passengers who were killed when it ripped apart.

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The five people on board were expected to be in total darkness and listening to their favourite music as the vessel descended.

Christine Dawood said she was told not to worry when then sub lost contact with the mother ship last month.

Her husband Shahzada Dawood, 48, and son Suleman Dawood, 19, were likely killed instantly in what is believed to have been an implosion which destroyed the vessel less than two hours into the dive on June 18.

But she was told they would be in the dark for much of the journey and would likely see bioluminescent sea life.

They were hoping to become one of the few people alive to have seen the 12,000ft-deep wreck of the Titanic with their own eyes.

Read more: ‘It's a lot of emotions, people are tired’: Titan sub rescue leader chokes up as he describes discovering wreckage

Christine said she was on board the Titan's mother ship, the Polar Prince, with the couple's 17-year-old daughter Alina in St John's in Newfoundland.

They joined the three other members of the voyage - British billionaire Hamish Harding, 58, French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, and Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate, which ran the expedition.

Suleman and Shahzada were killed aboard the OceanGate sub
Suleman and Shahzada were killed aboard the OceanGate sub. Picture: Handout

Christine said they were given two briefings before they left, and were told to put on warm clothing to help cope with cold temperatures in the depths.

The passengers were also told to go on a "low-residue diet" prior to the voyage, and instructed not to have coffee in the morning.

The Titan had only a cramped toilet behind a curtain.

Read more: Did ‘cavalier’ Titanic sub boss Stockton Rush lie about craft’s safety to persuade French dive expert to join trip?

The crew was told they would be in total darkness during the descent because the Titan needed to save the batteries for when they would turn on the headlights at the wreck.

But they were told they would see bioluminescent sea life, and the expedition organisers suggested they download music to their phones and play it on a speaker as they went down.

"It was like a well-oiled operation — you could see they had done this before many times," Christine said in an interview with The New York Times.

The vessel likely imploded, killing all aboard
The vessel likely imploded, killing all aboard. Picture: OceanGate

Her husband lapped up the briefings, which included Mr Nargeolet's recollection of his dozens of Titanic dives.

Mr Dawood told Christine "this is so cool" as the Titanic expert talked about how he spent three days stuck at the wreck.

"He was lapping everything up. He had this big glow on his face talking about all this nerdy stuff," she said.

He had been so excited he was "like a vibrating toddler" ahead of the adventure.

Christine had planned to go on the journey but their first bid to go was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

When they rescheduled, Suleman was old enough to go and he took her place.

Mr Rush even travelled to London to talk to them about the journey.

Mr Dawood, who was involved with the Prince's Trust, was dressed into a flight suit and descended into a raft that took him to a platform the sub was on.

"He needed an extra hand to go down the stairs in all this gear because the boots were very clunky," Christine said.

"And Alina and I were like, 'Oh, God, I hope that he doesn't fall into the water.'"

She considered it a "good morning" as she watched the sub's bolts get tightened and the sub started to descend.

But she later heard someone say that communication with the Titan was lost.

She was initially told not to worry because communications with the underwater vessel could be dodgy, and if there was a problem the sub would drop weights and float back up.

The US Navy detected a sound that appeared to be an implosion that day - but this did not become widespread knowledge until later. A search took place over the following days in case they were still alive and running out of oxygen.

But debris was eventually found on the sea bed, some 1,600ft away from the shipwreck.

It has previously been reported that Suleman was nervous about the voyage but decided to join Mr Dawood as it was Father's Day.

An investigation into the tragedy has been launched by Canadian authorities.