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5 men who perished in the submersible implosion shared a spirit of adventure

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

In the end, what united the five men who perished in the submersible in the Atlantic was a shared spirit of adventure. The search for the Titan was called off yesterday after debris from the vessel was found on the ocean floor close to the wreck of the Titanic. Reporter Willem Marx has been looking back at the lives of the men who risked it all for a chance to explore.

WILLEM MARX: The five lives aboard the Titan form part of a small group of people willing to dive 12,500 feet below the Atlantic surface to witness the results of an historic tragedy. Their captain was Stockton Rush, founder of the submersible business OceanGate, and the pilot of the craft.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STOCKTON RUSH: Five individuals can go on each dive. Three of those are what we call mission specialists. So those are the folks who help finance the mission, but they are also active participants.

MARX: Rush was a teenage flying prodigy who studied aerospace engineering at Princeton before building up a business focused on deep-sea exploration. He once told the Kansas City-based "Johnny Dare Morning Radio Show" that as a kid, he wanted to become an astronaut like Captain Kirk from "Star Trek."

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "JOHNNY DARE MORNING SHOW")

RUSH: Everything was focused on going to space. And then I suddenly realized that what I wanted to be was an explorer. You know, I wanted to find new life forms and go where no man had gone before, and that's in the ocean.

MARX: Alongside him was another man with an urge to explore.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PAUL-HENRY NARGEOLET: (Speaking French).

MARX: Paul-Henry Nargeolet had dozens of similar deep-sea dives under his belt and a decadeslong fascination with shipwrecks - the Titanic in particular. Filmmaker Francois Pomes had spent months working with him on a documentary about a dive to the Titanic planned for next year.

FRANCOIS POMES: What I will remember is a passionate scientist. He was a marine officer. He knew very well how to deal with the deepest sea and how to pilot this kind of submarine. He was the best specialist of the Titanic underwater landscape.

MARX: The third experienced explorer was British businessman Hamish Harding. He had more than once made it to the South Pole, entered the Mariana Trench in a two-man sub and got a Guinness World Record for the fastest north-south circumnavigation of Earth by air.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Five, four, three, two, one.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Blast off.

(CHEERING)

MARX: Last year, he entered Earth's orbit, thanks to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space business. His friend and retired NASA astronaut Terry Virts told MORNING EDITION this voyage represented just the latest in a long line of lifelong adventures.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

TERRY VIRTS: Hamish is an explorer by nature, and this just is the kind of thing that he would want to do. And he, I guess, looked for the company that does this, and this is basically it. If you want to go to the Titanic, this is probably how you're going to get there.

MARX: The final two travelers on board were a London resident father-son pair from one of Pakistan's wealthiest dynasties, Shahzada and Sulaiman Dawood.

LAALEEN SUKHERA: They're actually one of the nicest, kindest, warm-heartest (ph) people I've ever come across.

MARX: Laaleen Sukhera is an old family friend.

SUKHERA: They're very close to each other. They're a close-knit family, very warm and with this unique, very witty banter between them. And my heart just goes out to everyone on this vessel and their families and their loved ones.

MARX: All five knew the risks. But for their friends and families, facing the fact of their deaths will be far from easy.

For NPR News, I'm Willem Marx in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Willem Marx