Relatives of people aboard the ill-fated Titanic cruise liner, which sank in 1912, say tourist trips to the shipwreck site — like those offered by the missing OceanGate Titan sub — are “disgusting” and disrespectful to those who perished in the disaster.
The wreckage should be treated like an underwater “graveyard” of the 1,496 who died, not a “Disneyland” for adventure-seeking tourists, the family members told the Daily Beast.
“They died a horribly tragic death. Just leave the bodies resting,” said John Locascio, 69, whose uncles, Alberto and Sebastiano Peracchio, died in the tragedy.
Locascio said his uncles were working as young waiters on the ship in April 1912 when it hit an iceberg and sank.
He called it shameful that OceanGate has been capitalizing on visits to the sacred site.
“I think it’s disgusting, quite honestly,” he said. “What do you want to look at, you want to ogle?”
“I would want [the tours] to stop, to be perfectly honest. There’s no sense of it. You’re going down to see a grave. Would you want to dig up your uncles or aunts to see the box?,” he said.
Tragedy struck OceanGate — which offers pricey tourist trips via submersible to the historic site — on Sunday when one of its vessels, the Titan, vanished with five people aboard.
The missing Titanic-bound sub has prompted a pulse-pounding search and race against time as oxygen reserves in the vessel — which carried Sulaiman Dawood, 19, his business tycoon father, Shahzada, 48, British billionaire Hamish Harding, 58, famed Titanic explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, and OceanGate founder and CEO Stockton Rush, 61 — dwindled.
Other relatives of passengers aboard the Titanic were baffled as to why anyone would want to gawk at something so sad.
“It’s such a tragedy, I can’t believe people would pay $250,000 to look at it,” said Mark Petteruti, whose grandmother survived the Titanic disaster at age 24 but suffered from lifelong PTSD.
Tourist submersible exploring Titanic wreckage disappears in Atlantic Ocean
What we know
A submersible on a pricey tourist expedition to the Titanic shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean has vanished with likely only four days’ worth of oxygen. The US Coast Guard said the small submarine began its journey underwater with five passengers Sunday morning, and the Canadian research vessel that it was working with lost contact with the crew about an hour and 45 minutes into the dive.
Who is on board?
The family of world explorer Hamish Harding confirmed on Facebook that he was among the five traveling in the missing submarine. Harding, a British businessman who previously paid for a space ride aboard the Blue Origin rocket last year, shared a photo of himself on Sunday signing a banner for OceanGate’s latest voyage to the shipwreck.
Also onboard were Pakistani energy and tech mogul Shanzada Dawood and his son Sulaiman, 19; famed French diver and Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet, and OceanGate founder and CEO Stockton Rush.
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“We’re doing everything we can do to locate the submersible and rescue those on board,” Rear Adm. John Mauger told reporters. “In terms of the hours, we understood that was 96 hours of emergency capability from the operator.
Coast Guard officials said they are currently focusing all their efforts on locating the sub first before deploying any vessel capable of reaching as far below as 12,500 feet where the Titanic wreck is located.
While the Coast Guard has no submarine capable of reaching those depths, officials are working around the clock to make sure such a vessel is ready if and when the Titan sub is located.
Mauger, first district commander and leader of the search-and-rescue mission, said the US was coordinating with Canada on the operation.
The debris recovered from the US Coast Guard’s Titan submersible search site early Thursday included “a landing frame and a rear cover from the submersible.”
“It’s a graveyard, all those people who died with all their remains are down there … now it’s almost like Disneyland with all the people going down there to look,” said Petteruti, a shop owner from Massachusetts.
Brett Gladstone, whose great-great-grandmother and great-great-grandfather, Ida and Isidor Straus, died in the 1912 disaster, said the sub voyages should be better regulated.
“I’m not someone who believes in bad karma, and that people who go down in submersibles are subjecting themselves to bad karma because they’re going down to see a graveyard up close with unburied people. But the act of going down there should be a regulated procedure,” he said.
T. Sean Maher, whose great-grandfather James Kelly, died on the Titanic, said folks on the OceanGate sub “shouldn’t have been down there in the first place.”
“It’s tremendously sad if some people may have lost their lives in that manner, but in my opinion they shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” Maher said.
“We should let those people down there lie in peace.”
Other relatives of Titanic passengers said the wreckage should be examined with respect.
“There are still things to be investigated and learned at the site, but let’s do it respectfully, not encourage tourists to just go look at it,” said Shelley Binder, whose great-grandmother Leah Aks, was one of 712 survivors.
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