Suleman Dawood, a 19-year-old university student, and his father Shahzada Dawood, a British-Pakistani businessman, were among five passengers aboard the Titan submersible, believed to have catastrophically imploded Sunday during a deep-water exploration of the Titanic shipwreck.
All five passengers are presumed dead. It’s uncertain if authorities will be able to recover their bodies.
Shahzada had been captivated by the story of the Titanic since he was young, according to his oldest sister Azmeh Dawood. But his teenage son Suleman was anxious about the trip aboard the submersible.
The 19-year-old agreed to the expedition because it fell over Father’s Day weekend and he wanted to please his dad, Azmeh revealed to NBC News.
Suleman told a relative that he “wasn’t very up for it” and felt “terrified” about the trip in the days leading up to the ill-fated voyage, according to his aunt.
The desperate search for the missing Titan sub began Sunday when crews lost contact with the vessel less than two hours after it launched off the coast of Newfoundland. With only 96 hours of oxygen on board, a grim countdown began.
On Thursday, the day that the sub’s reserve oxygen would have run out, the U.S. Coast Guard announced it found a debris field with pieces of the Titan’s hull.
“I feel disbelief,” Azmeh said, breaking down in her interview with NBC News. “It’s an unreal situation.”
“I feel like I’ve been caught in a really bad film, with a countdown, but you didn’t know what you’re counting down to,” she said. “I personally have found it kind of difficult to breathe thinking of them.”
In recent years, Azmeh and her younger brother Shahzada had fallen out of touch but she was devastated to hear he is presumed dead.
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“He was my baby brother,” she said through sobs. “I held him up when he was born.”
She recounted how Shahzada was “absolutely obsessed” with the Titanic, and how the Dawood siblings would repeatedly watch A Night to Remember, a 1958 British film about the sinking of the famous ship when they were young.
The Dawood family is one of the richest families in Pakistan, with business holdings in energy, textiles, agriculture and other industries through the namesake Dawood Hercules Corp. Shahzada was the vice-chairman of Engro Corporation, a subsidiary of his family’s business.
Azmeh said she wasn’t surprised to learn that her brother had bought tickets for the OceanGate submersible mission, though she herself would never have done it.
“If you gave me a million dollars,” she said, “I would not have gotten into the Titan.”
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