London June 20 2023: One of Pakistan's richest men and his teenage son are amongst the five people missing in the submarine that set off to see the wreck of the Titanic, it was revealed today.
Shahzada Dawood, 48, a UK-based board member of the Prince's Trust charity, and his son Sulaiman Dawood, 19, were on board the small underwater craft taking paying tourists to view the famous wreck, which lies 12,500ft beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
'We are very grateful for the concern being shown by our colleagues and friends and would like to request everyone to pray for their safety,' the family said in a statement.
The Dawood family are amongst the richest in Pakistan, but have strong links to the UK and are believed to live in a Surrey mansion. Shahzada's father Hussain, 79, is the Chairman of the Dawood Hercules Corporation, which makes chemicals, and the Engro Corporation, which makes fertilisers, food and energy. He was born in Mumbai but educated at the University of Sheffield.
The missing tourist submersible with five people aboard including British billionaire Hamish Harding is understood to have last 'pinged' while it was directly above it's destination - the Titanic. Paul-Henri Nargeolet - the French world-renowned explorer, is also on board. OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush is believed to be the fifth crew member.
The crew, who launched at around 4am on Sunday but lost communication with the sub's mothership MV Polar Prince an hour and 45 minutes into the two hour descent, has enough oxygen to last underwater until 12pm on Thursday UK time (7am EST).
But as the terrifying race against time began yesterday afternoon, rescuers admitted the sub could have become stuck in the wreckage of the Titanic which is 370miles from Newfoundland in Canada but lies in US waters.
Submarine experts also fear the vessel is too deep for a manned rescue sub, such as the US Navy sub which is limited to 2,000ft, and that the only way of reaching it may be using a remote operated vehicle. These can reach a maximum depth of 20,000ft.
'Titan' - the name of the Titanic submersible - lost contact with the surface for at least seven hours and had appeared to be closing in on its destination.
t's understood that Titan communicates by sending a ping to the Polar Prince every 15 minutes - the last of which was received while the submersible floated above the Titanic wreckage at about 10am EST yesterday (3pm UK time).
It was at that moment that chaos ensued. A distress call was sent to the US Coast Guard at 9pm, whose Boston branch is leading an operation to carry out what would be the deepest undersea rescue mission ever.
With 96 hours of air left between five crewmembers until Thursday, Rear Admiral John W. Mauger told a press conference on Monday that the US Coast Guard is working 'as hard as possible' to find it while 'lives are at risk'.
But former Coast Guardsman John Mixson told Fox News it was an 'extremely serious and dire situation', adding: 'It's hard to say whenever you just lose total communications in a situation like that what actually happened until you find the vessel.
'This isn't a common occurrence at all. Obviously, something very rapid and very tragic took place.'
OceanGate, whose website says customers do not require any previous diving experience but that there are 'a few physical requirements like being able to board small boats in active seas', said it was receiving help from government agencies and deep-sea companies.
The eight-day trip includes a two hour dive to the Titanic wreck and the same on the way up. It can be around eight to ten hours in total.
David Concannon, an adviser to OceanGate who had actually planned to be on the expedition, said that officials are working to get a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that can reach a depth of 20,000ft to the site as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, C-130s and P-8s from the US and Canada are also being used to assist in the search in the remote area of the ocean, 900 miles east of Cape Cod and 370 miles southeast of southernmost Newfoundland.
Commercial ships helping the rescue mission also have access to sonar buoys which are capable of listening to a depth of 13,000ft, the Coast Guard said.
Admiral Mauger conceded that the craft may have become stuck in the Titanic's wreckage and said the rescue mission was 'very complicated'.
'We're working as hard as possible, bringing all assets to bear to try and find the submersible,' he added.
'We were notified yesterday [Sunday] afternoon and we began immediately to mobilise assets to search both the surface of the water, search from the air, and to detect any vessels under the water as well. We've had a comprehensive search to find these people.'
Admiral Mauger said the coastguard did not have the capabilities to reach it, if that was the case, telling Fox News: 'We don't have equipment onsite that can do a survey of the bottom…there is a lot of debris [at this wreckage] so locating will be difficult.
'We don't have the capabilities at this time. Right now, we're focused on trying to locate it.'
Former Rear Admiral Chris Parry, during a separate appearance on Sky News, echoed Mauger's concerns.
'It's very worrying. It could have become entangled in the wreckage of Titanic, we don't know yet,' said Parry.
'The wreck site is a long way from anywhere. The only hope one has is that the mothership will have a standby craft that can investigate immediately what is going on.'
OceanGate, which was founded in 2009, had chartered the MV Polar Prince, to take them to the dive site.
Polar Prince is believed to have departed St Johns in Newfoundland on Saturday, with the submersible - made of of five-inch-thick carbon fiber, capped on each end by a dome of titanium - launching at around 4am Sunday.
The Titan subs have no way of directing themselves under water. Instead, they rely on text messages from the mothership, instructing them where to go.
The missing tourist sub is classified as a submersible, not a submarine, because it does not function as an autonomous craft, and relies instead on a support platform.
Last year, a CBS journalist was on the mothership when the sub went off course. It was missing for two-and-a-half hours before it returned but none of those onboard were harmed.
Tickets for the trip cost £195,000 for an eight-day excursion during which groups pair off into smaller pods to dive in the submersibles for up to ten hours.
OceanGate advertises it as 'a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity' to 'safely dive the Titanic wreckage site' in a '12,500-foot journey to the bottom of the sea'.
Wealthy tourists are told that 'if money isn't an object and you don't mind close quarters', then they can 'step outside of everyday life and discover something truly extraordinary'.
Billionaire and CEO of Action Aviation in Dubai Mr Harding, who has been into space, visited both poles, circumnavigated the globe and holds three Guinness World Records – including for the longest time spent at the bottom of the ocean – vowed not to be someone who 'especially as they grow older, gives up on their dreams'.
OceanGate confirmed its sub was missing, writing: 'We are exploring and mobilizing all options to bring the crew back safely.
Before the trip, London-born Harding excitedly posted to social media about being there. Harding said it a 'window' had opened up that would allow the group to dive.
'A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow. We started steaming from St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada yesterday and are planning to start dive operations around 4am tomorrow morning,' he wrote.
His company, Action Aviation, posted on Sunday at 4am confirming that he was 'diving'.
According to OceanGate's website, one expedition is ongoing and two more have been planned for June next year.
The Titanic sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912, on its maiden voyage from England to New York after hitting an iceberg, killing more than 1,500 people. The wreckage was found in 1985, broken into two main sections.
By the early 2000s, scientists were warning that the numbers of tourists visiting the wreck were potentially damaging it - warning that holes had opened up in the decks, walls had crumpled, and that rust was spreading all over the ship. They also noted it was a graveyard, and deserved respect.