Titanic sub crew's poignant last moments on land as cafe worker recalls how 'excited' they were for trip

23 June 2023, 11:17

A barista has described the crew's poignant final moments on land
A barista has described the crew's poignant final moments on land. Picture: Handout/La Terre

By Kit Heren

A cafe worker who served the ill-fated Titan crew their final coffees before they descended beneath the waves has described them as "excited" for their trip.

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British businessman Shahzada Darwood, his teenage son Suleman, billionaire Hamish Harding, Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate Expeditions and 73-year-old French explorer Paul-Henry Nargeolet all died onboard the Titan sub travelling down to the Titanic wreck when the boat suffered a "catastrophic implosion".

Before they got on the submersible, they and some of the crew of the 'mother ship' that launched the Titan went to a cafe.

Stopping off at the Terre Cafe in St John’s, Newfoundland, the crew "seemed in a rush" because bad weather had halted previous descent attempts, barista James Law, 27, said.

"It was about nine or 10 of them. I could tell who they were because they're all literally wearing jackets that say Titanic on them," he said. "Everyone was wearing that blue OceanGate Titanic jacket.

Read more: Teenage son killed in Titanic sub was 'terrified' about trip and 'only agreed to please his dad for Father's Day'

Read more: US Navy ‘knew about Titanic sub implosion days ago’ from secret underwater microphones

The cafe where they stopped off
The cafe where they stopped off. Picture: La Terre

"Whenever we see guys wearing those expedition jackets, we just say, 'what are you guys up to?'" Mr Law told the Daily Mail "The group came down, and they're like, 'we're heading out,'" he said.

"They were saying they were excited for a good expedition. And a few of them seemed in a rush. They were a little behind schedule. That was the first day there was a break in the fog for a while. They were in a rush to go. They were excited to go."

Mr Law said later understood there was a problem when he saw the pictures of the crew in the news.

Read more: Tragic Titanic sub family slam victim's old Cambridge college which held 'Into the Depths' bash days after vessel vanished

Read more: Will Titanic sub rescuers find the bodies of the five passengers, and what happens in a 'catastrophic implosion'?

The Titan on the surface
The Titan on the surface. Picture: OceanGate

The US Coast Guard confirmed on Thursday that all five passengers aboard the submersible Titan had died following a "catastrophic implosion".

The US Navy is understood to have detected “an acoustic anomaly consistent with an implosion” shortly after the Titan lost contact with the surface on Sunday.

They informed rescuers who were able to narrow down the radius of their search before uncovering a 'debris field' 500 metres (1,600ft) from the bow of the Titanic.

Undersea expert Paul Hankin said five major pieces of debris helped to identify it as from the Titan submersible - including the vessel's nose cone and the front end bell of the pressure hull.

Stockton Rush
Stockton Rush. Picture: OceanGate

According to court documents, safety concerns had previously been raised about the Titan submersible by a former employee of Oceangate.

The filings said David Lochridge, Oceangate's former director of marine operations, claimed wrongful dismissal after flagging worries about the company's alleged "refusal to conduct critical, non-destructive testing of the experimental design".

Court papers suggest Mr Lochridge "identified numerous issues that posed serious safety concerns" but he was allegedly "met with hostility and denial of access" to necessary documents before later being fired.

The Dawoods
The Dawoods . Picture: Supplied

Other people have spoken out about safety concerns onboard, including journalist David Pogue, who was on a trip last year where the Titan got lost for several hours.

Boeing and NASA have both distanced themselves from OceanGate and the Titan, despite Mr Rush claiming that they had worked with both organisations on the crucial pressure vessel. Mr Rush also said that he had "broken some rules" in the construction of the ship.

Meanwhile the devastated families paid tribute to their loved ones after their deaths were confirmed, and politicians also offered their condolences.

Hamish Harding
Hamish Harding. Picture: Alamy

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly described the update as "tragic news" and said the UK Government is closely supporting the British families affected.

French explorer PH Nargeolet ]
French explorer PH Nargeolet. Picture: Instagram

The White House said the families of those who died had "been through a harrowing ordeal over the past few days, and we are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers."

Pakistan's foreign ministry paid tribute to the Dawood family, tweeting: "Our deepest condolences to the Dawood family and the family of other passengers on the sad news about the fate of Titanic (sic) submersible in the North Atlantic.

"We appreciate the multinational efforts over the last several days in search of the vessel."