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What we know about the search for the missing Titan submersible


Rescue teams are still clinging to hope in the search for the five people lost at sea on Sunday on their way down to the wreckage of the Titanic. Some sound was detected from underwater. But there's been no sign of their submersible vessel, and those aboard may have less than a day of oxygen on board.

NPR's Tovia Smith joins us now. And Tovia, what has the Coast Guard been saying in their latest updates?

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Well, we're told that the sound that they heard last night was picked up again today. They describe it as a banging sound, and they've shifted resources to where they think that is coming from. That's somewhere within the massive search area that's about 900 miles east of Boston. But unfortunately, so far, Coast Guard Captain Jamie Frederick says they cannot confirm whether those sounds are coming from the lost sub.


JAMIE FREDERICK: It's inconclusive. We don't know what they are, to be frank with you. What I could tell you is we're searching in the area where the noises were detected, and we'll continue to do so.

SMITH: Frederick was firm that the goal is still a rescue. And to that end, more equipment is still moving into the area, including a much-anticipated deep-water, remote-operated vehicle. But it is a long trip, and some of that equipment won't arrive on-site until tomorrow morning.

SUMMERS: OK. And we know that the CEO of the company that runs these excursions and designed the submersible is among those on board. Is that raising hopes in any way?

SMITH: Well, a bit because the CEO of OceanGate Inc. - that's Stockton Rush - is also the pilot of the sub. And as you say, he designed it, so he knows that vessel inside and out. And that does give hope to some folks like someone I talked to, Per Wimmer. He's an explorer of sea and space who got to know Rush when he was considering a dive with OceanGate.

PER WIMMER: I mean, you couldn't get a better pilot or somebody who knew more about what to do and what not to do and the limits of what's possible, etc. So if one was stuck down there, he would be the pilot you would want to have.

SMITH: On the other hand, I'll say there is a decent amount of concern expressed about the design and safety of this sub. A number of industry leaders have warned, beginning years ago, that the - OceanGate's, quote, "experimental" approach could lead to catastrophe, and they've questioned its adherence to industry guidelines and protocols. The CEO, Rush, has been quoted suggesting that regulation stifles innovation. But David Gallo, who's an expert on Titanic research and recovery, is one of those who is of a different mindset on that.

DAVID GALLO: I would hope that out of this comes a whole cadre of policies of - you know, if it were me personally, I would want the government looking over my shoulder at all times. But think some of these people - they're going to have a different attitude.

SMITH: Gallo is one of many also questioning the apparent hourslong gap between when the sub went missing and when the Coast Guard got a call for help. OceanGate declined to comment on that or anything else today. They're just pointing to earlier statements that they are doing everything they can to bring the crew back safely.

SUMMERS: I mean, I can't imagine what the families of those people on board are going through right now as they wait for news. It must be horrible. What have we heard from them?

SMITH: Mostly, they're asking for privacy and prayers right now. Gallo, who we just heard from, is among those praying and worrying. He's a very close friend of PH Nargeolet, who is on the vessel working as both a guide and a researcher.

GALLO: Honestly, on the deck of a ship in a storm or in a Parisian cafe, you wouldn't want to be with anyone else. He's that kind of a guy. I introduce him as Papa. Everyone loved him. It's not just me. There's a whole army of people that positively love PH Nargeolet.

SUMMERS: NPR's Tovia Smith, thank you so much.

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

Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR National Correspondent based in Boston, who's spent more than three decades covering news around New England and beyond.