The search for an OceanGate submersible that went out of contact during a dive to the wreck of the Titanic has widened to take in an area of the North Atlantic Ocean that’s the size of the state of Massachusetts.
Everett, Wash.-based OceanGate confirmed in an email that the company’s founder and CEO, Stockton Rush, is “aboard the submersible as a member of the crew.” Other members of the five-person crew are veteran Titanic explorer PH Nargeolet; Pakistani-born business executive Shahzada Dawood and his son, Suleman; and Hamish Harding, a British aviation executive and adventurer.
Rush served as the pilot of the Titan submersible for most of its dives over the past two years — but Bloomberg News cited reports claiming that Nargeolet was the pilot for the dive that began Sunday morning.
OceanGate Expeditions’ mission control ship, the Polar Prince, lost contact with the submersible about an hour and 45 minutes into Sunday’s dive. The last “ping” from Titan reportedly came from an area just above the Titanic wreck, but there’s a chance the sub drifted elsewhere in the depths.
The U.S. Coast Guard, which is leading the search, said in a tweet that 10,000 square miles of ocean — just a little less than Massachusetts’ surface area — had been surveyed as of this morning, roughly 24 hours since the search began.
Search teams are looking for signs of the sub with the aid of surface ships including the Polar Prince and the Deep Energy, plus Coast Guard C-130 planes and Canadian P-3 Aurora and P-8 Poseidon aircraft. The P-8 is equipped with an underwater sonar detection system, and sonar buoys are also being deployed in the area.
“To date, those search efforts have not yielded any results,” Coast Guard Capt. Jamie Frederick said today during a news briefing.
Frederick said remotely operated vehicles were being brought to the scene for underwater deployment as part of a “full-court press” to look for the submersible. If the sub is located, a U.S.-Canadian task force “will look at the next course of action,” including rescue attempts, he said. “This operation is our top priority right now,” Frederick said.