Family of French Titanic expert pays heartfelt tribute to ‘one of the greatest deep-sea explorers’

Family of French Titanic expert pays heartfelt tribute to 'one of the greatest deep-sea explorers'

The family of a French Titanic expert who died in the Oceangate disaster have paid tribute to his life’s work, recalling his sense of humor and ‘his big heart’.

On Thursday, Paul-Henri Nargiolet, 77, CEO of Oceangate, was confirmed dead in the tragedy alongside Stockton Rush, 61; British billionaire explorer Hamish Harding, 58; and Pakistani father and son Shahzada Dawood, 48; and Suleman Dawood, 19.

Nargiolet – known publicly as PH – was part of the first human expedition to visit the wreck of the Titanic in 1987 and has visited the site at least 35 times.

Nargiolet’s family was joined by four other relatives, who all admired their curiosity and adventurous spirit.

The Nargiolet family said: ‘We are heartbroken at the loss of our wonderful father and husband.

‘He is a man who will be remembered as the greatest deep sea explorer in modern history. When you think of the Titanic and the ship as we know it today, you think of Paul-Henri Nargiolet and his legendary work.

‘But we will remember him most for his big heart, his incredible sense of humor and how much he loved his family. We will miss him today and every day for the rest of our lives.’

The family of French Navy veteran PH Nargiolet paid tribute to the 77-year-old’s ‘legendary work’ on Thursday.

Nargolet is seen with a replica of the wreck of the Titanic at an exhibition in Paris in May 2013.

The Nargiolet family thanked everyone involved in the search and rescue efforts.

Nargiolet, who was born in the French Alps, in the ski resort town of Chamonix, married Michelle Marsh, a former New York news anchor. She died of breast cancer in 2017 at the age of 63.

He served in various roles in the French Navy from 1964 to 1986 – notably as a commander, sub pilot, ship captain, clearance diver and deep sea diver.

He retired from the Navy and joined the French Institute for Research and Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER) in charge of the deep submersibles Nautilus and Sayana.

While at IFREMER, he led the Titanic’s first recovery mission in 1987.

Nargiolet moved to the United States and became involved in Titanic research, overseeing the recovery of 5,000 artifacts—including the recovery of a 20-ton section of the Titanic’s hull, which is now on display in Las Vegas.

He was a longtime resident of Kent, Connecticut before moving to Dutchess County, New York.

Nargiolet is survived by his wife and three children, and his stepson, John Paschal.

The company that organized the wreck, Oceangate, also paid tribute to those on board.

The Washington state-based firm was started in 2009 by aeronautical engineer and entrepreneur Stockton Rush. Among those who died were: his wife, Wendy, the company’s director of communications;

‘These men were true explorers who shared a unique spirit of adventure and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world’s oceans,’ Oceangate said in a statement.

‘Our hearts go out to these five souls and each member of their families at this difficult time. We mourn the loss of life for all who knew them and the joy they brought.’

Stockton Rush, the 61-year-old founder and CEO of the Oceangate campaign, was among the five killed. He founded the company in 2009 and was piloting the craft

There were five people on board, including British billionaire explorer Hamish Harding (58), and Prince Dawood and his son Suleiman, who was just 19.

The submersible, Teton, is pictured below. Only five subs were able to reach the Titanic

Tributes have also been paid by Hamish Harding’s family, friends and colleagues.

Harding was based in the United Arab Emirates and was chairman of Action Aviation, an aircraft brokerage and management company.

“Hamish Harding was a loving husband to his wife and a devoted father to his two sons, whom he loved deeply,” the statement said.

‘To his team at Action Aviation he was a guide, an inspiration, a support and a living legend.’

Cambridge-educated Harding holds the Guinness World Record for the longest time spent underwater.

He set it in 2021 after diving into the Mariana Trench, the world’s deepest point, and for four hours and 15 minutes.

This is one of the three Guinness World Records he has achieved.

He set another for the longest distance covered under the sea at three miles.

His first was set for the fastest circumnavigation of the Earth via the North and South Poles in 2019 on a Gulf 650ER business jet.

He went into space last year.

The London-born adventurer – who was friends with astronaut Buzz Aldrin – recently said: ‘I used to read the Guinness World Records book regularly as a child. I always wondered how I could get into it. I didn’t think I could do it.

‘And I didn’t want to do anything stupid – like set a record for ping-pong balls bounced in one day or something like that.’

The family added: ‘He was one of a kind and we adored him.

‘He was a passionate adventurer – no matter the terrain – who lived his life for his family, his business and the next adventure.

‘What he achieved in his lifetime was truly remarkable and if we can take any small consolation from this tragedy, it is that we have lost someone he loved.

‘He will leave a void in our lives that will never be filled.’

They added that he would have been ‘extremely proud’ to see the international diving and exploration community come together to work on the search.

The Dawood family also praised the adventurous spirit of father and son.

Dawood and his son Dawood were heirs to a business dynasty and among the richest men in Pakistan – although they lived in Surrey, England.

Shahzada Dawood, 48, (pictured with his wife Christine) was a UK-based board member of the Prince’s Trust charity

The Dawood family paid tribute after it was announced that Shahzada and his son Suleiman were among the dead.

‘Our dear boys were aboard the Titan submarine at Oceangate which died underwater.

‘Keep the departed soul and our family in your prayers during this difficult time of grief.

A source said Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood was ‘driven by a passion for exploration’

‘We are truly grateful to everyone involved in the rescue operation. Their tireless work was a source of strength for us during this time.

‘We are also indebted to our friends, family, colleagues and well-wishers from around the world who stood by us in our time of need. The immense love and support we have received continues to help us bear this unimaginable loss.

‘Our deepest condolences go out to the families of the other passengers of the Titan submersible. At this time, we are unable to take calls and request that messages be sent instead of support, condolences and prayers The details of their funeral in this world will be announced soon.’

The statement was signed by Shahzada Dawood’s parents, Hussain and Kulsoom – philanthropists who run an educational charity and heads of the family dynasty.

Dawood’s sister, Sabrina, said during the rescue operation that she and her son would be ‘just as moved by the support of the world community as we are’.

Dawood and his son Dawood were heirs to a business dynasty and among the richest men in Pakistan.

They were British citizens and lived in Surbiton, Surrey.

Suleiman and his older sister Alina both grew up in London.

Suleman studied at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. He was a business school student and had just finished his first year.

In a statement, Engro Corporation, the Pakistani conglomerate of which Dawood was vice chairman, said: ‘With heavy hearts and great sadness, we mourn the loss of our vice chairman Shahzada Dawood and his beloved son, Sulaiman Dawood.

‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the Daoud family at this difficult time.

‘We extend our deepest condolences to the family, colleagues, friends and those around the world who are mourning this unimaginable loss.’

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