BOSTON - A multinational search to find a submersible that disappeared Sunday several hundred miles off the coast of Canada has ended after officials said a debris field was discovered at the bottom of the ocean near the Titanic’s wreckage in the North Atlantic.
The 22-foot submarine operated by OceanGate Expeditions had five people aboard and was offering excursions to the Titanic’s wreckage for about $250,000 per person.
"We now believe that our CEO Stockton Rush, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood, Hamish Harding, and Paul-Henri Nargeolet, have sadly been lost," a statement from OceanGate issued Thursday read.
The U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday that the debris field found points to a catastrophic loss of the submersible due to a pressure implosion. Officials said a remote-operated vehicle that was combing the sea floor near where the Titan last made contact located the debris near the bow of the Titanic’s final resting place about 2.5 miles below the surface of the ocean.
"These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans," the OceanGate statement read. "Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew."
Capt. Jamie Fredrick, with the U.S. Coast Guard, stated crews have searched an area larger than the state of Connecticut and have yet to find any signs of OceanGate’s missing Titan sub.
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If estimates are accurate, officials believe the vessel will run out of breathable air on Thursday, but major questions remain as to what actions rescuers could take if the submersible is spotted.
The Titanic’s wreckage lies about 12,500 feet deep, with only remotely operated vehicles able to search due to extreme pressures.
"Right now, all of our efforts are focused on finding the sub. What I will tell you is we have a group of our nation’s best experts in the unified command, and if we get to that point, those experts will be looking at what the next course of action is," said Fredrick.
Weather forecast not a factor
The expected weather for the remaining workweek does not appear to be a factor in search and rescue efforts.
The Coast Guard's 1st District, located in Boston, said the weather in the search area saw sustained winds of 14 mph with gusts up to 19 mph. The sea state includes 4- to 5-foot swells with an air temperature of 50 degrees.
As the Northern Hemisphere enters summer, weather features from both the west and the south can impact the region, but fortunately, there are no major storm systems on the horizon.
In fact, a ridge of high pressure is expected to remain in control, leading to the search region being primarily free of disruptive weather and tropical cyclone concerns.
The closest tropical cyclone activity is expected to remain over 1,000 miles away in the Caribbean and central Atlantic over the next five days.
The USCG has not stated how long they expect search and rescue efforts to last and so far have not come across any signs of the missing vessel.