Missing Titanic sub: Among victims was 'iconic and inspirational' man with ties to Orlando Titanic exhibit

A submersible carrying five people to the Titanic imploded near the site of the shipwreck and killed everyone on board, authorities said Thursday, bringing a tragic end to a saga that included an urgent around-the-clock search and a worldwide vigil for the missing vessel.  Among the dead is Paul-Henri Nargeolet, a longtime employee of the company that owns the Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition in Orlando.

The sliver of hope that remained for finding the five men alive was wiped away early Thursday, when the submersible's 96-hour supply of oxygen was expected to run out following its Sunday launch and the Coast Guard announced that debris had been found roughly 1,600 feet (488 meters) from the Titanic in North Atlantic waters.  

"This was a catastrophic implosion of the vessel," said Rear Adm. John Mauger, of the First Coast Guard District. 

After the craft was reported missing, the U.S. Navy went back and analyzed its acoustic data and found an anomaly that was "consistent with an implosion or explosion in the general vicinity of where the Titan submersible was operating when communications were lost," a senior Navy official told The Associated Press on Thursday. 

OceanGate Expeditions, the company that owned and operated the submersible, said in a statement that all five people in the vessel, including CEO and pilot Stockton Rush, "have sadly been lost."

The others on board were two members of a prominent Pakistani family, Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman Dawood; British adventurer Hamish Harding.

Nargeolet was considered a Titanic expert. The popular Orlando attraction to which he was connected announced his death on their Facebook page early Thursday evening.

Paul-Henri Nargeolet, director of a deep ocean research project dedicated to the Titanic, poses inside the new exhibition dedicated to the sunken ship, at 'Paris Expo', on May 31, 2013, in Paris. Over a century after the sinking of the famous ship, a

"Our hearts are with the families and friends of those aboard the submersible as we are collectively and individually mourning the loss of our long-term employee and colleague Paul Henri ‘PH’ Nargeolet," read a statement from Jessica Sanders, the president of RMS Titanic, Inc. which operates Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition Orlando. "The maritime world has lost an iconic and inspirational leader in deep-sea exploration, and we have lost a dear and treasured friend."

In the post, Sanders expressed gratitude for "the efforts of the US Coast Guard and NOAA in coordinating efforts between agencies, governments, public and private sectors."

"We ask for respect for the privacy of the families and our staff as we all try to come to terms with our loss," she added.

The Coast Guard said it will continue searching for more signs about what happened to the Titan. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.