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Days of searching turns tragic as all 5 people aboard the Titan are dead

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

After days of searching the North Atlantic, debris from the missing submersible the Titan has been found on the ocean floor.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The U.S. Coast Guard says all five people aboard the vessel were killed by an apparent implosion.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Jasmine Garsd joins us now with the latest.

Good morning.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Good morning.

ELLIOTT: Jasmine, this was a massive search effort, ending now with this tragic news. What do we know so far?

GARSD: Well, according to the Coast Guard, debris from the Titan submersible was found on the ocean floor about 1,600 feet from the bow of the Titanic. And that, they said yesterday, indicates a catastrophic implosion of the vessel. Also, there seems to be no evidence that this was a collision with the Titanic. This was an implosion.

ELLIOTT: So what are the prospects now for potentially recovering the bodies of the people who were on board?

GARSD: Well, rescue teams continue to map the debris field, but they've indicated that it might be quite difficult to recover the bodies. Here's a Rear Admiral John Mauger of the U.S. Coast Guard.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN MAUGER: 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.

ELLIOTT: It sounds unlikely. Jasmine, this was a risky endeavor from the get-go. What are people saying about that?

GARSD: Well, for years, there was widespread concerns about the safety of this vessel. And one of the concerns was precisely about its ability to withstand pressure. The concern was raised over and over again that the submersible vessel was only built to a certified pressure of 1,300 meters, even though the Titanic shipwreck lies nearly 4,000 meters below sea level. And yet the company boasted its disregard for regulation as part of its identity as a groundbreaking enterprise that offered innovation, a company that wasn't stifled by rules, that offered exhilarating adventures. The Titan's passengers were required to sign a waiver that lists physical injury, disability, emotional trauma or death. So it was horrifying as this is, it was something that the company and passengers knew could happen.

ELLIOTT: So how did the company manage to avoid regulation, something you say that they've touted? And do you think that would change in the future for these kinds of endeavors?

GARSD: Well, this expedition happened in international waters, thus skirting regulation, and it is part of an increasing and very lucrative form of high-risk adventure tourism that takes the ultrawealthy into the depths of the sea. And it's very unregulated. As many have pointed out, the rescue efforts for a catastrophic event like this do call on governments from various nations and are very costly. So I'd venture to say, yes, this could lead to more regulation of the industry.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Jasmine Garsd.

Thanks so much.

GARSD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.