'One of a kind': Tributes paid to Titan sub pilot and four passengers believed dead

The five person crew of the Titan submersible are believed to have died after the US Coast Guard said the vessel had suffered a 'catastrophic implosion'. Neil Connery and Lucy Watson report

The family of one of the five people believed to have died on the Titan submersible have paid tribute to him as "one of a kind".

On Thursday, OceanGate Expeditions, the company which operates tours to the Titanic wreckage, confirmed the crew "have sadly been lost".

British billionaire Hamish Harding's family said they were "united in grief" with the friends and relatives of UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son, Suleman, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush and French naval veteran Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The tribute follows comments from US Coast Guard Rear Admiral John Mauger that debris found in the search for Titan is "consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber".

A statement from Mr Harding's family read: "Hamish Harding was a loving husband to his wife and a dedicated father to his two sons, whom he loved deeply. To his team in Action Aviation, he was a guide, an inspiration, a support, and a living legend.

"He was one of a kind and we adored him. He was a passionate explorer - whatever the terrain - who lived his life for his family, his business and for the next adventure. What he achieved in his lifetime was truly remarkable and if we can take any small consolation from this tragedy, it’s that we lost him doing what he loved.

"He will leave a gap in our lives that can never be filled. We know that Hamish would have been immensely proud to see how nations, experts, industry colleagues and friends came together for the search and we extend our heartfelt thanks for all their efforts."

'The debris is consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber,' Rear Admiral John Mauger told reporters

At a press conference in Boston, Rear Admiral Mauger said: "This morning, an ROV, or remote operated vehicle from the vessel Horizon Arctic discovered the tail cone of the Titan submersible approximately 1,600ft from the bow of the Titanic on the sea floor.

"The ROV subsequently found additional debris. In consultation with experts from within the unified command, the debris is consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber.

"Upon this determination, we immediately notified the families.

"On behalf of the United States Coast Guard and the entire unified command, I offer my deepest condolences to the families. I can only imagine what this has been like for them.

"And I hope that this discovery provides some solace during this difficult time."

Hamish Harding's family paid tribute to him as 'one of a kind'. Credit: PA

In a statement, OceanGate Expeditions said: "These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world's oceans.

"Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew."

Rescue teams had been searching for the vessel since last Sunday, when it lost contact with its mothership around one hour and 45 minutes into its deep sea descent.

Richard Garriott de Cayeux, President of the Explorers Club, said club members Mr Harding and Mr Nargeolet were both "drawn to explore".

He added that Mr Rush was a friend of the club and conducted lectures at its headquarters, and that Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman's "desire to explore as a family would have led them to our doorstep at some point in their futures".

The crew were travelling in the Titan submersible. Credit: AP

Asked what the prospects of recovering crew members were, Rear Admiral Mauger said: "This is an incredibly unforgiving environment down there on the sea floor and the debris is consistent with a catastrophic implosion of the vessel.

"And so we'll continue to work and continue to search the area down there, but I don't have an answer for prospects at this time."

Rear Admiral Mauger said there did not appear to be any connection between the underwater noises detected during the search and rescue mission and the location of the debris on the seafloor.

"This was a catastrophic implosion of the vessel which would have generated a significant broadband sound down there that the sonar buoys would have picked up," he said.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly described the update as "tragic news" and said the UK government is closely supporting the British families affected.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry offered its "deepest condolences" to the Dawood family and the families of other passengers.

In a Twitter post, a spokesman said: "We appreciate the multi-national efforts over the last several days in search of the vessel."

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