June 20 (UPI) — A massive search operation is underway in the North Atlantic to locate five people aboard a small submersible that went missing during a trek to see the wreckage of the Titanic.
Here’s what’s known about the people who are aboard the OceanGate Expeditions vessel that has been missing since contact was lost Sunday.
Hamish Harding is a 58-year-old British aviator who runs Action Aviation, a Dubai-based private jet dealership.
In 2019, he was part of a team of aviators, including retired astronaut Terry Virts, who landed at Kennedy Space Center after having set three global flying records for circling the Earth over the North and South poles.
The mission, called One More Orbit, touched down in Florida at 8:12 a.m. EDT, hours ahead of its tentative schedule. Its recorded flight time was 46 hours, 39 minutes, 38 seconds. The average speed was clocked at 534 mph.
At the time, Harding told UPI of a harrowing crisis over the South Pole as the plane suddenly encountered air temperature far below its design threshold while he was at the controls.
The jet crossed over the pole at just below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or -18 Celsius, flying at more than 40,000 feet high.
In an instant, Harding said, the temperature plummeted to -117 Fahrenheit, or -83 Celsius.
“It was very extreme weather, far beyond what we anticipated,” Harding said. “I had to dive immediately, thousands of feet, to get to warmer air.”
Shahzada and Suleman Dawood
British businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48, is from one of Pakistan’s richest families. He is traveling with his son Suleman, a 19-year-old student.
Dawood studied at Philadelphia University in the United States and the University of Buckingham in England, where he graduated in 1998.
According to the World Economic Forum, Dawood is the vice-chairman of Pakistani conglomerate Engro Corporation, which operates a range of businesses from its headquarters in Karachi.
A family statement described teenager Suleman as a “big fan of science fiction literature and learning new things” and having an interest in Rubik’s cubes and playing volleyball, the BBC reported.
Also on board is Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate, which runs the Titanic voyages. In 1981, Rush became the youngest jet transport rated pilot in the world. Rush has flown worldwide.
He founded OceanGate in 2009. For $250,000, the company offers people the chance to get an up-close glimpse of what remains of the doomed British ocean liner.
Rush reportedly goes on every OceanGate dive and told The New York Times that the ticket price was only a “fraction of the cost of going to space and it’s very expensive for us to get these ships and go out there.”
Another explorer aboard the vessel is 77-year-old Paul-Henry Nargeolet, a former French Navy diver. Nargeolet is the director of underwater research for RMS Titanic Inc., an American company that owns the salvage rights to the famous wreck and displays many of the artifacts at Titanic exhibitions, according to the New York Times.
“RMS Titanic Inc. sends our heartfelt support to the Boston Coast Guard during their search and rescue mission for the submersible reported missing from OceanGate’s current expedition to the TITANIC wreck site,” RMS Titanic tweeted. “We send our thoughts and prayers for the safe return of all on board.”
While in the French Navy, Nargeolet served as a mine-clearing diver, a deep-sea diver, and a submarine pilot. He did his first dive to the Titanic in July 1987, two years after the wreck was discovered.
Nargeolet said that the ship has captured more of the public’s interest now because of the 1997 James Cameron film.
“Once you’ve gotten your head into the Titanic, it’s hard to get it out,” he said.