19-year-old passenger on Titan submersible was 'terrified' to go, family member says

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(NEXSTAR) – The 19-year-old passenger aboard Titan’s ill-fated dive to the wreckage of the Titanic was “terrified” to go on the trip, but went anyway so as not to disappoint his Titanic-obsessed dad, his aunt told NBC News.

Suleman Dawood and his father, Shahzada Dawood, 48, embarked on the June 18 expedition with fellow passengers Hamish Harding, Paul-Henri Nargeolet and OceanGate founder Stockton Rush. Their submersible lost contact with its support vessel approximately an hour and 45 minutes into the dive. Coast Guard officials ultimately determined the Titan suffered a “catastrophic implosion” after pieces of the debris were found along the ocean floor.

All five people aboard the Titan were presumed dead as of Thursday, OceanGate said.

Azmeh Dawood, Suleman’s aunt and Shahzada’s older sister, told NBC News that her brother had been fascinated with the Titanic since he was a boy, often watching films, documentaries and seeking out museum exhibits concerning the ocean liner, which sank in 1912.

An undated photo provided by Engro Corporation Limited shows Suleman Dawood, one of five men presumed dead after the implosion of the Titan submersible during a dive to the wreckage of the Titanic. (Engro Corporation Limited via AP)

She didn’t say whether Suleman shared his father’s fascination, but indicated that the teenager told another family member that he wasn’t eager — and allegedly even “terrified” — to join his father on the June 18 submersible expedition despite his father purchasing tickets for them both.

“I am thinking of Suleman, who is 19, in there, just perhaps gasping for breath,” Azmeh told the outlet. “It’s been crippling, to be honest.”

In the days following the Titan’s initial loss of contact with its support ship Sunday, search and rescue teams looked for the missing submersible for several days via air, sea and remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs). On Thursday, Coast Guard officials briefed the media on an ROV’s discovery of debris determined to belong to the Titan, indicating all five men on the sub had been lost.

Later the same day, a senior Navy official said one of its acoustics systems had picked up a sound “consistent with an implosion or explosion” around the date and time the Titan lost contact Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported.

OceanGate, which operated the submersible tours, lamented the loss of CEO Stockton Rush and Titan’s four other passengers in a statement released Thursday.

“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,” the company wrote.

Suleman, who was also a student at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, was mourned by school officials in a statement issued by the principal and vice-chancellor.

“The entire Strathclyde community offers our deepest condolences to the Dawood family and all those affected by this terrible accident,” the statement read, in part.

Counseling services are also being made available for students and faculty in the wake of the incident.

The Dawoods, who were members of one of Pakistan’s most prominent families, lived in the United Kingdom, the Associated Press reported. Shahzada Dawood was also the director of the Dawood Hercules Corporation, an investment firm based in Karachi, Pakistan.

An obituary for the two men, obtained by The Guardian, has been released by their family via the British Asian Trust, a charitable organization that Shahzada supported.

“In this unfathomable tragedy, we try to find solace in the enduring legacy of humility and humanity that they have left behind and find comfort in the belief that they passed on to the next leg of their spiritual journey hand-in-hand, father and son,” the obituary said.

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