We were constantly looking at the water’: Emotional wife and mother of Titanic sub disaster victims describes the agonising wait as she hoped stricken craft would come back to the surface before losing hope only after knowing their oxygen had run out
As Efforts to recover the remains of the Titan submersible that suffered a catastrophic implosion near the Titanic wreckage are currently underway, and as of Sunday, had descended to the seafloor for a fourth dive, the wife of one of the Titan sub disaster victims said her husband, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, and their teenage son, Suleman, were excited to see the Titanic wreck before they boarded the doomed vessel.
Christine Dawood and her daughter Alina were onboard Titan’s mothership, the Polar Prince, when news came through that they had lost communications shortly after it began its descent at 8am on Sunday, June 18.
A major search and rescue mission was launched and went on for days, and while her daughter clung onto hope throughout, Christine said she ‘lost hope when we passed the 96 hours mark’.
‘That’s when I lost hope. That’s when I sent the message to my family onshore, I said: ‘I am preparing for the worst’.’
Christine paid tribute to her 19-year-old son, a student at Strathclyde University who took his Rubik’s Cube on the trip as he hoped to break the world record for solving the puzzle at the greatest depth.
Ending her interview with the BBC, the heartbroken mother said through tears: ‘I miss them. I really, really miss them.’
UK-based billionaire Shahzada and his son Suleman were two of the five victims killed instantly when the submersible suffered a ‘catastrophic implosion’ just 1,600ft from the bow of the Titanic, according to the US Coast Guard.
Christine revealed that she had planned to go with her husband to view the Titanic wreck in the OceanGate sub, but that their trip was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic.
‘Then I stepped back and gave them space to set [Suleman] up, because he really wanted to go,’ she said.
After contact was lost with the vessel, Christine and her daughter Alina, 17, waited for news at the site where Titan was last seen during the search and rescue mission.
‘We had loads of hope, that was the only thing that got us through it because we were hoping,’ she said.
As well as her husband and son, three others died on board Titan: OceanGate’s CEO Stockton Rush, 61, British businessman Hamish Harding, 58, and Paul-Henry Nargeolet, 77, a former French navy diver and experienced Titanic diver.
Christine said those above water tried to remain hopeful, telling themselves: ‘There were so many actions the people on this sub can do in order to surface… they would drop the weights, then the assent would be slower, we were constantly looking at the surface. There was that hope.’
She and her daughter held out hope to begin with after being they did not initially return.
She said: ‘We all thought they are just going to come up so that shock was delayed by about 10 hours or so.
‘By the time they were supposed to be up again, there was a time…. when they were supposed to be up on the surface again and when that time passed the real shock, not shock but the worry and the not so good feelings started.’
Despite the bleak outlook as the hunt dragged on, she said her teenage daughter never lost hope of her father and older brother’s rescue.
‘My daughter didn’t lose hope until the call with the Coastguard when they basically informed us that they had found debris.’
Alina’s mother said: ‘she is such an incredible young woman, she is so self-aware.
‘She believes in science, and she really believe, just like if you board a plane, that the science, the mechanics, the engineering will work.’
Christine said at 96 hours she tried ‘really hard’ not to show her daughter that she had lost hope.
After news emerged on Thursday that debris from the sub had been found, the family returned to St John’s in Newfoundland, Canada on Saturday.
On Sunday, they held a funeral prayer for Shahzada and Suleman, which Christine said had ‘helped’.
Paying tribute to her son, she admitted he had been a ‘mother’s boy’ but that he also ‘loved his father’.
When asked what the family’s last words to each other were, she told the BBC: ‘We just hugged and joked actually, because Shahzada was so excited to go down, he was like a little child.
‘He had this ability of childhood excitement, they were both so excited.’
Christine and Shahzada met at university, she said, when she didn’t speak any English.
She recalled how the history buff knew more about her native Germany’s history than she did, and that he was obsessed with documentaries.
‘He would make us all watch David Attenborough, and the children loved it.
‘His enthusiasm brought the best out of me, and so I really learned to love history as well. He was really able to, through his knowledge, inspire and motivate others.’
Her son, she said, was practical and intellectual, and wouldn’t go anywhere without his Rubik’s Cube – which he taught himself to solve it in just 12 seconds.
‘Suleman did a 10,000-piece lego Titanic. He applied for a world record because he wanted to solve a Rubik’s Cube at the deepest point.
While his application was rejected, they were still planning to film the attempt, with Suleman saying ‘I’m going to solve the Rubik’s Cube 3,700 meters below sea at the Titanic.’
Mrs Dawood said she and her daughter have vowed to try to learn to finish the Rubik’s Cube in Suleman’s honour, and she intends to continue her husband’s work.
She said: ‘He was involved in so many things, he helped so many people and I think Alina and I really want to continue that legacy and give him that platform when his work has continued and it’s quite important for my daughter as well.
Alina and I said we are going learn how to solve the Rubik’s cube. That’s going to be a challenge for us because we are really bad at it but we are going to learn it.’
Last Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that a debris field located about 1,600 feet from the wreckage of the Titanic was in fact that of the missing Titan submersible.
The underwater vessel was carrying five men on board when it lost contact with its surface ship about an hour and 45 minutes after descending to the Titanic.
South Wellfleet, Massachusetts-based Pelagic Research Services (PRS) was contacted by OceanGate, the company behind Titan, for use of its remotely operated vehicles, or “ROVs,” to assist with the search.