They set off hoping for a rare glimpse of a storied wreck but now find themselves at the center of their own dramatic tale at sea.
A British billionaire and a prominent Pakistani businessman and his son are among the five people rescue crews are racing to find on board a submersible with a rapidly dwindling air supply in the North Atlantic. OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush was also on the vessel, a spokesperson confirmed Tuesday, as well as French diver Paul Henry Nargeolet, his family said.
The vessel vanished Sunday during a dive to explore the wreck of the Titanic, part of a tour offering explorers the opportunity to see the site up close for a significant sum. The submersible, called Titan, was on only its third trip since OceanGate Expeditions began offering trips in 2021.
British adventurer Hamish Harding
British billionaire and adventurer Hamish Harding was among the five people on the vessel.
In a photo captured before Sunday's dive, Harding could be seen looking out from a vessel in a uniform with a badge that says "Titanic expedition crew."
Harding's company, Action Aviation, says on its website that it was established in 2004, operating as a global sales company in business aviation.
A post Sunday on the billionaire's Instagram account said he was joining OceanGate’s expedition “as a mission specialist” — typically a onetime crew member who pays a fee to join the effort.
“Due to the worst winter in Newfoundland in 40 years, this mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023,” Harding said in his post. He said that a “weather window” had just opened up and that the team was going to attempt a dive the following day.
“Until then we have a lot of preparations and briefings to do,” he said.
Harding, who lives in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, holds three Guinness World Records, including the longest duration at full ocean depth by a crewed vessel. In March 2021, he and ocean explorer Victor Vescovo dived to the lowest depth of the Mariana Trench. In June 2022, he went into space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, according to The Associated Press.
Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman
Prominent Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his son, Suleman Dawood, 19, were also identified as being on board the vessel by family and by one of Dawood's businesses.
"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 while granting the family privacy at this time. The family is well looked after and are praying to Allah for the safe return of their family members," the family said.
"We, at Engro, remain in prayer for their swift and safe return, and will share any updates we may have as and when they come," Engro, the company where Dawood serves as vice chairman of the firm’s board, said.
The father and son, who are both British citizens, belong to one of Pakistan's most prominent families. Their firm invests in agriculture, industries and the health sector, while Shahzada Dawood is also on the board of trustees for the California-based SETI Institute, which searches for extraterrestrial intelligence.
His son, Suleman Dawood, is a college student in the United Kingdom, according to the family's company. Shahzada Dawood is married and has one other child.
OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush
OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush was also on board the vessel, according to a company spokesperson. "OceanGate can confirm that CEO Stockton Rush is aboard the submersible as a member of the crew," the spokesperson said.
Rush oversees the company's "financial and engineering strategies," according to a corporate profile.
Paul Henry Nargeolet
In his Instagram post, Harding wrote that the team on the sub had "a couple of legendary explorers," including "PH Nargeolet."
French diver Paul Henry Nargeolet was on the vessel, his stepson, John Nathaniel Paschall, confirmed Tuesday. Nargeolet's family declined to make any additional statement about the situation.
Nargeolet, who is known by some as "Mr. Titanic," is the director of underwater research at the Experiential Media Group, which creates "museum-quality exhibitions" around the world, according to its website. He is considered a leading authority on the Titanic wreckage, according to a biography on the site.
Nargeolet has led several expeditions to the Titanic wreckage site, completing at least 35 dives in submersibles and supervising the recovery of at least 5,000 artifacts, including the recovery of the “big piece” — a 20-ton section of the Titanic’s hull, according to the biography.
Also known by his first initials, "P.H.," Nargeolet had a 22-year career with the French navy before he retired in 1986 and joined the French Institute for Research and Exploitation of Sea. At the institute, he led the first recovery expedition to the Titanic in 1987, according to the bio.
Years later, in 2010, he "served as the expedition leader on the most technologically advanced dive to Titanic spearheading the first comprehensive survey map of the Ship," according to the bio.
In a 2019 interview with the Irish Examiner, Nargeolet was asked whether he ever got scared of diving to reach the wreck.
“If you are 11m or 11km down, if something bad happens, the result is the same,” he said. “When you’re in very deep water, you’re dead before you realise that something is happening, so it’s just not a problem.”
U.S. Coast Guard officials said they have “brought all assets that we have available” to the search to find the missing sub and its crew.
In a statement, OceanGate Expeditions said its "entire focus is on the crew members in the submersible and their families."
"We are deeply thankful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep sea companies in our efforts to reestablish contact with the submersible,” the company said.