Sat. Sep 30th, 2023


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Titanic sub families praying for a miracle with King ‘devastated’ by disaster

5 min read

Mike Reiss ‘not optimistic’ of locating Titanic submarine

Distraught family and friends of three British men in the missing Titanic submersible are praying for a miracle as the vessel’s oxygen supply runs down.

They urged the world to “pray for their safety” as hopes of finding the adventure party safe and well in the Atlantic Ocean were dwindling.

The plea came as experts warned last night that the five men on board the 21ft-long Titan diving vessel had a low supply of oxygen left.

It means that as of this morning rescuers will have just 24 hours to save Britons Hamish Harding, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman along with Frenchman Paul-Henry Nargeolet and Stockton Rush – the American boss of submersible tour firm OceanGate.

The coastguard is using a remotely operated vehicle dive at the last known location of the sub.

Capt Jamie Frederick said the coastguards’ “heartfelt thoughts and prayers” were with the families of the five on board.

One former naval officer warned that the search was so difficult the chances of bringing them back to safety would be “one per cent”. Another expert said the men were trapped beneath the ocean “in a tomb” without breathing equipment.

But 58-year-old Mr Harding’s loved ones remained positive last night, saying they were “proud” of him and “look forward to welcoming him home”.

They released a statement through his aircraft company Action Aviation telling of their gratitude for the “kind messages of concern and support”.

British Pakistani Mr Dawood’s family said they had no new information about the 48-year-old vice-chairman of fertiliser business Engro and student son Suleman, 19. But they said in a statement they “would like everyone to pray for their safety”, adding: “The family is well looked after and are praying to Allah for the safe return of their family members.”

The King has asked to be kept updated on the search as Mr Dawood is a key supporter of two of his charities.

The businessman is a longtime supporter of The Prince’s Trust International and The British Asian Trust.

The monarch said his thoughts and prayers were with the Dawood family and all those involved in the incident and the attempted recovery operation.

Will Straw, chief executive of the Prince’s Trust, said it had enjoyed a long relationship with Mr Dawood working as an adviser.

He added: “We are shocked by this awful news, praying for a rescue and sending our thoughts to his family.”

A royal source said: “His Majesty takes a keen personal interest in the people that help to keep his Trust thriving.

“He will be devastated to know that Shahzada is missing but will be keeping an eye on developments.”

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Mr Dawood’s family added that he is a “loving father to Suleman and Alina, husband to Christine” and has “been actively advocating a culture of learning”.

They said university student Suleman “takes a keen interest in solving Rubik’s Cubes and enjoys playing volleyball”.

Mr Rush’s company OceanGate, which operates Titan’s £200,000 tourist trips to view the Titanic, said: ‘“We pray for the safe return of the crew and passengers.” The messages of support came as Capt Frederick said last night that the craft Titan, which left Newfoundland on Sunday morning, would have just 41 hours of oxygen left.

He added: “Our crews are working around the clock to ensure that we are doing ­everything possible to locate the Titan and the five crew members.”

Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said: “The families involved will be deeply concerned and the Prime Minister’s thoughts are with them and the Foreign Office is providing support.”

He added that Mr Sunak “clearly wants to pass on his thanks to those that are responding” to the emergency.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “We wish them all the luck and of course, we hope that they will be swiftly found and returned to their loved ones.” Capt Frederick said the US coastguard mission also involved the US navy, Canadian armed forces and coastguard and OceanGate Expedition.

The coastguard added: “This is a complex search effort, which requires multiple ­agencies with ­expertise and specialised equipment. The unified command brings that ­expertise and additional capability together to maximise the effort in solving this.”

The party set out from Newfoundland on Sunday morning to explore the wreckage of the Titanic, which has lain on the Atlantic bed since it sank in 1912 after colliding with an iceberg.

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Tourists, scientists and film-makers pay up to £200,000 per eight-hour trip to see the iconic ruins 13,000 feet down and 370 miles offshore.

But the submersible Titan, which had a 96-hour oxygen supply for five people, lost touch with its mothership Polar Prince after barely two hours.

Experts said conditions inside the craft would be cramped and stifling, that locating it in such a vast expanse would be difficult and recovering it even harder.

David Marquet, a former US navy nuclear submarine commander, said: “If I was advising the Prime Minister, I’d say their chances are one per cent.”

Aaron Amuck, a US navy contractor and veteran, added: “I know everyone is waiting on the US navy to save the day, but our rescue sub is limited to 2,000ft depth.

“They basically lock five people in a tomb and drop it to the bottom. Oceanographer Dr Simon Boxall of the University of Southampton was fearful for those on board.

He said: “Time is very short and the next few days will be critical. It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be cramped.

“There is no escape pod. If you came out into the water at those depths you’d be crushed, so they’re totally reliant on the submersible being found.

“It’s an enormous challenge, one we’ve never had to tackle before.”

Titanic expert Tim Matlin said the Atlantic Ocean bed was “pitch black and freezing cold”. He added: “The seabed is mud and it’s undulating. You can’t see your hand in front of your face. The only way you can find where you are is by sonar.

“Not even radar works. So it’s really a bit like a moonshot. It’s really a bit like being an astronaut going into space.

“So I do fear for the lives of those explorers who are on board.”

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