Family of missing British billionaire Hamish Harding slam OceanGate

Family of missing British billionaire Hamish Harding slam OceanGate

June 22, 2023

‘It took far too long’: Family of missing British billionaire Hamish Harding slam OceanGate over ‘frightening’ eight hour delay in raising the alarm after sub vanished – as co-founder insists they have ‘longer than we think’ and rescue mission continues

The family of missing British billionaire Hamish Harding have slammed the owners of a submersible that vanished over the Titanic for waiting eight hours before raising the alarm – as the firm’s co-founder insisted rescuers have ‘longer than we think’ despite predictions the oxygen has run out. 

The world is now praying for a ‘miracle’ after rescuers estimated the vital oxygen supply would end at 12.08pm UK time (7.08am EST and 9.08pm Sydney). Banging has been heard at 30 minute intervals from the depths of the Atlantic – possibly from the men striking the side of the sub – but it has not yet been located. 

The company’s Titan submerged at 1pm UK time on Sunday around 400 miles southeast of St John’s, Newfoundland, near to where the famous shipwreck lies. At 2.45pm it lost contact with its mothership, the Polar Prince. But it wasn’t reported as missing to the US Coast Guard until 10.40pm.  

Kathleen Cosnett, a cousin of Mr Harding, 58, said the delay before contacting the authorities was ‘far too long’. She told the Telegraph: ‘It’s very frightening. It took so long for them to get going to rescue them, it’s far too long. I would have thought three hours would be the bare minimum.’

Today, Rear Admiral John Mauger, of the US Coast Guard, said the operation ‘remains an active search’ and he ‘remains hopeful’ thanks to ‘favourable’ weather conditions. Asked about the banging noises, he said initial analysis suggested they were ‘background ocean noise’ but this was still being examined. 

Those stuck onboard the sub include British billionaire Hamish Harding, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, French navy veteran PH Nargeolet and Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, who is just 19 and a student at Strathclyde University. 

A deep water robot sub has reached the Atlantic floor – and another is descending the 12,500ft of ocean fast. ‘The Canadian vessel Horizon Arctic has deployed an ROV that has reached the sea floor and began its search for the missing sub’, a spokesman said.

And a French ship viewed as the best and final hope of finding the missing Titanic submersible has also dropped its remote-controlled sub to find five missing adventurers. L’Atalante arrived on the scene at 11.48am GMT (7.48ET) and has deployed Victor 6000, which can reach depths of 20,000ft and will arrive at the Titanic’s wreck in the next two hours.

Victor 6000 has arms that can cut cables – or dislodge a trapped or stranded vessel – and may be able to fix a cable onto the sub before it is hauled several miles to the surface by a giant winch with more than three miles of cable called a Flyaway Deep Ocean Salvage System on Horizon Arctic.

Despite fears their oxygen supplies have run out, there is still hope in the most desperate of situations. Experts believe that the 96-hour oxygen supply number is an imprecise estimate and could be extended if those on board have taken measures to conserve breathable air including lying still and even sleeping. 

Guillermo Sohnlein founded OceanGate with Mr Rush in 2009 and believes that the window for finding them could go beyond the US Coast Guard’s prediction. He said: ‘Today will be a critical day in this search and rescue mission, as the sub’s life support supplies are starting to run low.

‘I’m certain that Stockton and the rest of the crew realised days ago that the best thing they can do to ensure their rescue is to extend the limits of those supplies by relaxing as much as possible. I firmly believe that the time window available for their rescue is longer than what most people think. I continue to hold out hope for my friend and the rest of the crew’.

Five people are onboard, including British billionaire adventurer Hamish Harding and Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, who is just 19

French Navy veteran PH Nargeolet (left) is in the sub along with Stockton Rush (right), CEO of the OceanGate Expedition

The Atalante – viewed as the final hope for the missing Titan sub – has arrived at the search site. It is dropping in a deep sea robot called the Victor 6000, shown at the stern of its mother vessel  

The Victor 6000 (pictured) can get to the depths needed and can help free or attach a cable to the Titan – if they can find it

This is how Titan could be saved by the French ship, if it is found

Titan’s mothership Polar Prince has been searching the area since Sunday and is zig-zagging the site. At least ten ships are on the sea above the Titanic

Titan lost communication on Sunday while about 435 miles south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic off the coast of Canada. The last ‘ping’ of its homing device was heard on Sunday afternoon – directly above the world’s most famous wreck.

Above the Titanic is a flotilla of at least ten ships, two robot subs and several aircraft scanning the Atlantic for any sign of Titan as sonar continues to hear a banging noise from the depths. 

Today, Rear Admiral John Mauger confirmed the initial reports suggesting the noise heard by sonar buoys was ‘background ocean noise’.

He told Sky News: ‘We’ve taken that information and shared it with top leading experts from the US Navy and the Canadian Navy, and they’re working on the analysis of that information, they’re continuing to work on the analysis of that information.

‘The initial reports is that there’s a lot of the sounds that were generated were from background ocean noise, but they continue to … look for all available information there.

READ MORE – MailOnline’s live blog on the rapidly unfolding search for Titan 

‘What’s important to me, and what’s important as the unified command, is that we’ve continued search in the areas where noise was detected with the ROVs that we have from the time of that detection, so we’re not waiting for this analysis to take action.

‘The analysis is really helpful to our overall search-and-rescue efforts, but we’re not waiting on it, we’ve moved the remote operated vehicles that we’ve had on site to those areas where noise was detected.’

Shipping experts Marine Traffic have shared an animation of the ships rushing to the search zone. Titan’s mothership Polar Prince has been searching the area since Sunday and is zig-zagging the site in the hope that it will appear on the surface or get back in contact after communications cut out more than 72 hours ago. 

A Royal Navy submariner, as well as equipment from a British company, has been sent to assist in the search for Titan. Number 10 said Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia had been ’embedded… to assist the search and rescue effort’.

Rob Larter, a marine expert at the British Antarctic Survey, told a press conference on Thursday that he thought the Victor 6000 was the ‘main hope’ for an underwater rescue.

Alistair Greig, a professor of marine engineering at University College London, said the robot’s two manipulator arms could potentially allow it to untangle the Titan, or attach a device that could float it to the surface.

The Victor 6000 also has strong lights, allowing it to see through some of the murk at such depths.

But the experts warned that the rescuers would need to know fairly precisely where to look for Titan, which currently does not seem to be the case.

Finding the submersible ‘could potentially take weeks of intense survey,’ Larter warned.

READ MORE – The key ‘mistakes’ that ‘led to’ Titan tragedy

And even if search teams do find the submersible, a rescue operation could take up precious time.

In a normal situation, it would take two hours for a ROV like the Victor 6000 to get down to the necessary depth – and another two hours to float back up, Greig said.

The missing submersible is also reportedly bolted from the outside, which could take up more time, he added.

Larter said it was a ‘desperate situation’.

‘It’s kind of unimaginable if people are alive, trapped in a submersible with oxygen supplies running down.

‘An objective assessment of where things are at the moment: it doesn’t look good,’ Larter said, adding that it was important to stay optimistic.

The Coastguard has admitted it does not know if it is the five men hammering on the side of their sub or simply the sound of the sea including perhaps debris falling from the Titanic itself at 12,500ft below the surface. 

But even if it is discovered it will take many hours to save Titan – meaning that the oxygen could run out before they get to the surface. Rescue efforts to find them have continued overnight – and are becoming ever more desperate.

Oisin Fanning has been on board the Titan sub twice. He told BBC Breakfast this morning: ‘There are no noises down there. There are no noises on the Titanic – no banging, no nothing. So the likelihood is that it is someone tapping every 30 minutes to indicate where they are’. 

Oceanographer and water search expert Dr David Gallo said today: ‘It’s going to be almost impossible. We need a miracle — but miracles do happen’. 

But former Royal Navy Officer, Chris Parry, said as Midday approached: ‘I’m afraid time’s up – I don’t think there’s any prospect of getting those people out alive now’.

It is a bleak picture for those trapped inside the stranded vessel, but officials have continued to insist that the hunt is ‘100 per cent’ still a search and rescue mission. 

READ MORE: Rescue team of ultra high-tech submersibles, jets and ships involved in search

Rescuers searching for the missing Titanic explorers have been racing against the clock as they struggled to find the source of underwater ‘banging noises’ detected yesterday.

Canadian aircraft picked up the sounds by sonar – some of which were said to be heard at regular 30-minute intervals – as recently as yesterday afternoon, close to where the Titan submersible disappeared.

But the Coast Guard admitted last night that extensive searches around the area 435 miles off Newfoundland had so far ‘yielded negative results’.

Rescuers have insisted ‘we always have hope’ for the five passengers – including three Britons – on the missing 21ft submersible which vanished on Sunday. Response co-ordinator Captain Jamie Frederick for First Coast Guard District said: ‘This is a search and rescue mission, 100 per cent.’

Deep-sea explorer Dr David Gallo believes it would take a ‘miracle’ to rescue those trapped in Titan, but remains optimistic.

He told Good Morning Britain: ‘Maybe two days ago my hope was sliding downward rapidly, but then these noises appeared and there seems to be very credible sources there, credible and repeatable.

‘We’ll see how that pans out but everything is happening very quickly, so we have a race against time.

‘Our hopes are high. We need a miracle at this point, but miracles do happen, so I’m very optimistic.’ 

Dr Gallo has said it will take hours to rescue the submersible once found.

Speaking to Good Morning Britain, he said: ‘In this case, the noises are repetitive, every half hour I believe.

‘Three different aircraft heard them in their sensors at the same time and it went on for two days-plus.

‘It’s still going on apparently. There’s not a lot in the natural world we can think of that would do that every 30-minute cycle.

‘We have to, at this point, assume that that’s the submarine and move quickly to that spot, locate it and get robots down there to verify that is where the submarine is.

‘They’ve got to go fully ready as if that was the sub because it takes a while to locate it and get it up to the surface, it takes hours.’ 

A door with signage removed is seen at Ocean Gate Headquarters at the Waterfront Building within the Port of Everett complex in Everett, Washington

The Titan, a tourist submersible which runs $250,000 tours of the doomed Titanic ship and is operated by OceanGate Expeditions, has been underwater since 8am on Sunday with five people on board 

The pilot of a Royal Canadian Air Force CP-140 Aurora maritime surveillance aircraft of 14 Wing flies a search pattern for the missing OceanGate submersible

The area of ocean is teeming with boats and equipment trying to find the missing sub 

Timeline (British Summer Time) of the search for the Ocean Gate submersible, if Titan has lost its power the crew will be in complete darkness facing temperatures of 3C

The 21ft submersible has an oxygen supply of up to 96 hours  – but some experts believe it could be higher

At a press conference at the US Coast Guard Station in Boston – which is coordinating the search and rescue effort – First District Response Coordinator Capt. Jamie Frederick said it was not certain the sub could be saved

Rescuers including the USCG, British Navy and French and Canadian teams had been picking up the pace ahead as the window of rescue narrowed.

Rescuers are refusing to give up hope, US Coastguard Captain Jamie Frederick insisted on Wednesday, even as people around the world count down the hours until oxygen is expected to run out on the vessel.

‘We have to remain optimistic and hopeful when we are in a search and rescue case. If we continue to search, potentially we could be at that point… And that’s a discussion we will have with the families long before I am going to discuss here publicly.’

According to OceanGate, Titan’s operator, the sub has a 96-hour oxygen supply in case of emergencies.  Search and rescue teams are racing against time as they scour an area where noises were detected for the missing Titan sub, with experts saying they are continuing to analyse the sounds in the sea. 

The only possible trace of the vessel which is continuing to be investigated was underwater ‘banging’ sounds, which were detected yesterday in the search for the missing Titanic submersible.

But, the US Navy experts analysing the sounds said they cannot yet conclude whether they are coming from the stranded vessel, and ROVs were continuing to return negative results from under the sea. 

Private groups who had offered their help to the rescue mission as early as Monday were allegedly not authorised to help until Wednesday night, sources also told MailOnline.

Rescuers are now embarking on a last-ditch attempt to find the tiny vessel in a huge expanse of water, with the search area expanded to around 14,000 square miles – twice the size of the state of Connecticut.

The time pressure is compounded by the fact that the underwater vehicles may be able to pinpoint Titan, which was headed for the Titanic wreckage 12,500ft below the surface, but it will take additional specialized tools for the mammoth task of bringing it up.

Hopes of a recovery were raised slightly on Wednesday when a Canadian P-3 aircraft equipped with sonar detected the periodic ‘banging’ sound.

The P-3 is one of several models of aircraft which are also helping the search by scouring the ocean surface and using sonar equipment for signs of activity on the seabed.

A range of military and commercial vessels is also at the site, offering a mixture of search capabilities, communications tools and rescue equipment if Titan is found.

Ultimately, it is down to the submersibles to get eyes on Titan if it remains on the seabed – or trapped within the Titanic’s wreckage.

Sean Leet, co-founder of Horizon Maritime Services, the company which owns Titan’s mothership Polar Prince, said on Wednesday that he has never seen advanced search ‘equipment of that nature move that quickly’.

The family of the missing Titan sub tourists, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman, gathered above the water on Wednesday where the vessel was last seen. 

A family source in Karachi, Pakistani, where Mr Dawood is from, released a new picture of the father and son to MailOnline and said: ‘I can tell you that Mrs Dawood and her daughter are currently in the search area at the moment and will remain there for as long as they can.

Sulaiman Dawood, 19, who is missing on board the sub is pictured with his mother Christine

Among those taking part in the expedition is billionaire Hamish Harding (pictured), CEO of Action Aviation in Dubai. He excitedly posted to social media about being there on Sunday

‘Naturally this is a very tough time for the family and they’re not coping at all well with the situation, they are drawing strength from each other and hoping and praying for the best.

‘The messages of support they are getting from all around the world are also keeping them positive and they are grateful for everyone’s kind thoughts and wishes.’

‘It’s not clear what it was that made Mr Dawood want to go and visit the Titanic with his son, but he is driven by a passion for exploration, and I understand this was something that had been planned for some time.’

The Dawoods belong to one of Pakistan’s most prominent families. Their eponymous firm invests across the country in agriculture, industries and the health sector.

Their family, including Shahzada’s wife Christine and daughter Alina, are waiting for news of the pair.

The passengers onboard Titan include British billionaire adventurer Hamish Harding and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush. 

In a heartbreaking plea, one of Mr Harding’s close friends Jannicke Mikkelsen warned ‘we are losing time’.

The panicked friend told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday: ‘I’m nervous. I’m sick to my stomach with nerves. I’m terrified, I’m anxious. I’m not sleeping at the moment. I’m just hoping for good news. Every single second, every single minute feels like hours.’

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