OceanGate reported on Thursday that it believes all five passengers on its missing Titan submersible have "sadly been lost."
The company made the announcement hours after the Coast Guard said debris had been found in the search area for the missing submersible.
"The debris is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel," said Rear Adm. John Mauger of the Coast Guard.
Officials said the debris was found about 1,600 feet from the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean. They added the debris was located in an empty area of the ocean floor, and not immediately adjacent to the Titanic shipwreck.
"Essentially we found five different major pieces of debris that told us that it was the remains of the Titan," said Paul Hankins, director of salvage operations and ocean engineering with the U.S. Navy. "The initial thing we found was the nose cone, which was outside of the pressure hull. We then found a large debris field. Within that large debris field, we found the front end bell of the pressure hull. That was the first indication that there was a catastrophic event.
"Shortly thereafter, we found the second smaller debris field. Within that debris field, we found the other end of the pressure hull and bell which was basically comprised of the totality of that pressure vessel.”
Officials involved with the search said a U.S. Navy listening system detected the implosion of the vessel just hours after it submerged on Sunday.
Who was in the submersible?
OceanGate confirmed its CEO Stockton Rush was on board the submersible.
The others passengers included Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his teenage son Suleman.
British businessman Hamish Harding was also in the submersible, as well as French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet.
The search operation
The submersible lost contact with a surface-based vessel less than two hours into its voyage on June 18.
For days, officials conducted searches on the surface and bottom of the ocean.
On Wednesday, officials described the search area as twice the size of Connecticut. Canada's Horizon Arctic's remotely operated vehicle was brought in to scour the bottom of the ocean on Thursday and noticed debris from the submersible, which was set to explore the Titanic shipwreck 2.5 miles below the ocean surface.
Each square inch of surface area at that depth absorbs thousands of pounds of pressure. It is also dark and cold at the bottom of the ocean.
In the search for the submersible, crews used sonar and listening devices. On both Tuesday and Wednesday, aircraft picked up a "banging" noise coming from below the surface, but officials said on Thursday that they did not believe those noises were connected to the submersible.
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