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Coast Guard: Search is on for missing submersible and 5-person crew

Everett-based company operated several Titanic voyages

OceanGate Expeditions of Everett operates the five-person submersible now missing after a dive to the wreck of the Titanic.
OceanGate Expeditions of Everett operates the five-person submersible now missing after a dive to the wreck of the Titanic.
By Julia Lerner Staff Reporter

The U.S. Coast Guard has launched a search for a submersible exploring the wreck of the Titanic after it failed to return Sunday night with five people aboard.

The submersible, known as the Titan, was supposed to return after an eight-day voyage on a transport ship to view the wreckage of the Titanic approximately 435 miles south of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) below the surface of the ocean. 

The Titan, a 21-foot submersible with three tourists, a researcher and a pilot aboard, is operated by Everett-based OceanGate Expeditions. The vessel first made the voyage to the Titanic wreck in 2021, and has since successfully completed the expedition multiple times.

photo  The deepwater submersible Titan, operated by OceanGate Expeditions of Everett, is the subject of a search by multiple agencies after failing to return with five passengers from a dive to the wreckage of the Titanic off the coast of Newfoundland June 18. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)  

The Coast Guard is working with Canadian agencies as part of the search and rescue mission. 

“It is a remote area and it is a challenge to conduct a search in that area,” Rear Admiral John Mauger of the U.S. Coast Guard said at a Monday news conference in Boston. “We’re deploying all available assets to make sure that we can locate the craft and rescue the people on board.”

Mauger said the vessel was designed with 96 hours of emergency oxygen reserves in the event of a crisis, and estimated the vessel currently has between 70 and the full 96 hours remaining. 

Specs for the vessel indicate it is capable of reaching depths of 4,000 meters, and includes a real-time hull health monitoring system — meaning if a leak occurred or the vessel took damage, the company could analyze structural integrity. 

“This onboard health analysis monitoring system provides early warning detection for the pilot with enough time to arrest the descent and safely return to surface,” according to OceanGate’s profile of the vessel. It is unclear if OceanGate’s health monitoring system is currently operational, and the company did not respond to requests for comment Monday afternoon. 

The submersible, constructed with carbon fiber and titanium, differs from a submarine in that it requires a “mother ship” for launch and recovery, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The vessel weighs about 23,000 pounds and can reach speeds of about 3.5 miles per hour (3 knots). 

The Titan went missing about an hour and 45 minutes into its dive, according to reporting from the Seattle Times

The Coast Guard did not identify the five individuals involved, but BBC News has identified Hamish Harding, a United Arab Emirates-based businessman and known extreme tourist, as one of the “mission specialists” aboard the vessel. In 2021, Harding was part of a two-person team that dived in the Mariana Trench — the deepest point in the world’s oceans — and in 2022, he joined a six-person team of astronauts aboard the New Shepard, Blue Orgin’s space mission. 

Several Western Washington companies and institutions had a hand in designing the Titan, including Skagit-based Janicki Industries, the University of Washington and Boeing. 

Though OceanGate did not respond to requests for comment, the company wrote in a statement on social media it is “deeply thankful” for the assistance in finding the five-person crew. 

“Our entire focus is on the crew members in the submersible and their families,” the company wrote. “We are deeply thankful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep sea companies in our efforts to reestablish contact with the submersible.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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