According to a Coast Guard official, the five people on board a missing submersible died in a "catastrophic" incident, putting an end to the extensive search for the vessel that went missing while en route to the Titanic.
OceanGate Expeditions said in a statement that "these men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world's oceans."
"During this tragic time, our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families," the statement reads.
Rear Admiral John Mauger of the US Coast Guard said at a press conference that the submersible's wreckage was found on Thursday morning, 4 km below the surface, about 488 meters from the bow of the century-old wreck.
"The debris is consistent with a catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber," Mauger stated.
Rescue teams from various nations have been scouring thousands of square miles of open water with planes and ships for the 6.7m Titan, which is being operated by OceanGate Expeditions out of the US, for days.
On Sunday morning (local time), the submersible lost contact with its support ship about an hour and a half into what was supposed to be a two-hour descent.
The five people on board included the 58-year-old British billionaire and explorer Hamish Harding, the 48-year-old British citizen Shahzada Dawood, who is of Pakistani descent, and his 19-year-old son Suleman; the 77-year-old French oceanographer and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet, who has made numerous trips to the wreck; and Stockton Rush, the American founder and CEO of OceanGate.
Sonar buoys dropped from Canadian aircraft on Tuesday and Wednesday were able to pick up underwater noises, temporarily raising hopes that those inside the submersible were still alive and trying to communicate by banging on the hull.
However, officials cautioned that the results of the sound analysis were not conclusive and that the Titan may not have even been the source of the noises.
The Titan's estimated 96-hour air supply when it entered the water on Sunday at around 8 a.m. would have left its occupants without oxygen by Thursday morning, even if it were still intact.
The Titanic is located about 1450 kilometers (640 kilometers) east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and 400 kilometers (640 kilometers) south of St. John's, Newfoundland. It sank in 1912 during its maiden voyage after colliding with an iceberg, killing more than 1500 people.
According to OceanGate's website, the expedition to the wreck, which it has been conducting since 2021, cost $250,000 per person.
A symposium of submersible industry experts in 2018 raised concerns about Titan's safety. Later that year, a lawsuit filed by OceanGate's former head of marine operations raised similar concerns.
More than 10,000 square miles of ocean have been searched, an area roughly equal to the size of the US state of Massachusetts. The effort was expanded to the ocean's depths on Thursday with the deployment of two specialized deep-sea unmanned vehicles, where extreme pressure and total darkness had threatened to complicate any rescue operation.
Due in part to the mythology surrounding the Titanic, the search for the lost submersible has drawn attention from all over the world. Since a century ago, the "unsinkable" British passenger liner has served as the subject of both nonfiction and fiction works, including the blockbuster James Cameron film from 1998, which reignited public interest in the tale.