Titanic Submersible Passenger Shahzada Dawood Survived Horrifying Plane Incident 5 Years Ago With Wife

Titanic Submersible Passenger Shahzada Dawood, who is now presumed dead along with his son Suleman, had previously lived through a terrifying plane scare, according to his wife Christine.

By Angie Orellana Hernandez Jun 23, 2023 1:21 AMTags
Watch: Missing Titanic Sub: 5 Passengers Presumed Dead

Years before Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman boarded the Titanic submersible, which authorities now presume imploded during a dive, the Pakistani businessman had survived a near-death incident.

Shahzada and his wife, Christine Dawood, experienced a horrifying plane scare, which she said prompted her to rethink her life afterwards, she wrote in a 2019 blog post on her career coaching website.

"The start was uneventful and so was most of the cruising but just as the seatbelt signs came on to alert us to our imminent landing approach, the plane took a deep plunge," Christine said of the incident. "I later read that a plane doesn't drop more than three to five metres during turbulence, but my stomach in that moment would beg to differ. The whole cabin let out one simultaneous cry, which turned to a whimper and then silence. Dead silence."

In those immediate moments, Shahzada reflected on "all the opportunities he'd missed and how much he still wanted to teach our children," Christine wrote. She recalled making a deal "with God, the universe, whoever was listening," that if she survived, she would quit smoking cigarettes.

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"It went dark," Christine continued. "Storm clouds amassed around us, immersing the cabin in a strange kind of twilight. It was not quite light and yet not fully dark. It engulfed us, teased us and breathed fear into some and bravery into others."

People in the plane were praying, while others were nervously talking or crying, according to Christine.

"I was frightened like never before in my life," she added. "I wasn't even able to wipe away the tears running down my face or move my head to look around. Plunge! It wasn't over yet. Shake left, shake right! My head hit the window."

The captain then informed the passengers that he was going to attempt to land again from a different angle, Christine recalled, and the plane gained height out of the storm clouds for an all-too-brief moment of relief.

Courtesy Dawood family

"As the plane turned, my side lifted forcing me to look down to my left," she wrote. "My husband faced me, our eyes locked and our hands interlinked. No words were needed. He was as scared as I was and yet we were together. ‘Until death do...' No, don't go there!"

As the plane shook "even heavier than before if that was even possible," Christine felt herself transported "into a form of a trance," while steadily holding her husband's hand until the aircraft finally touched down on the runway.

SETI Institute via AP

"We had survived," she recounted. "But I still couldn't move. I still couldn't comprehend. We were safely on the ground and yet my throat felt as if a noose was tightly around it. I felt a squeeze of my hand and heard somebody talking to me, but I was frozen still. It's then that I realised that my life had changed and would never be the same again."

Disaster, however, would strike Christine's family on June 18, when Titan—a 21-foot submersible Shahzada and Suleman were on to view the wreckage of the RMS Titanic—went missing an hour and 45 minutes into its expedition. Suleman was initially "terrified" to go, but boarded anyway to accompany his dad on the Father's Day excursion, his aunt Azmeh Dawood told NBC News.

Four days later, and following an around-the-clock rescue mission, the five-person crew aboard the submersible were presumed dead by authorities, who found debris from the Titan "consistent with the catastrophic loss of the pressure chamber."

"These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world's oceans," OceanGate, the company behind the Titan expedition, said in a statement on June 22. "Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew."

To learn more about the five Titan passengers, keep scrolling.

Shahzada Dawood & Son Suleman Dawood

On June 18, 2023, a deep-sea submersible Titan, operated by the U.S.-based company OceanGate Expeditions and carrying five people on a voyage to the wreck of the Titanic, was declared missing. Following a five-day search, the U.S. Coast Guard announced at a June 22 press conference that the vessel suffered a "catastrophic implosion" that killed all five passengers on board.

Pakistani-born businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son Suleman Dawood, both British citizens, were also among the victims.

Their family is one of the wealthiest in Pakistan, with Shahzada Dawood serving as the vice chairman of Engro Corporation, per The New York Times. His son was studying at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

Shahzada's sister Azmeh Dawood told NBC News that Suleman had expressed reluctance about going on the voyage, informing a relative that he "wasn't very up for it" and felt "terrified" about the trip to explore the wreckage of the Titanic, but ultimately went to please his father, a Titanic fan, for Father's Day.

The Dawood Foundation mourned their deaths in a statement to the website, saying, "It is with profound grief that we announce the passing of Shahzada and Suleman Dawood. Our beloved sons were aboard OceanGagte's Titan submersible that perished underwater. Please continue to keep the departed souls and our family in your prayers during this difficult period of mourning."

Stockton Rush

OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush was the pilot of the Titan. The entrepreneur—who founded the research company in 2009 in Everett, Wash.—had long been interested in exploration. Rush, 61, previously said he dreamed of becoming the first person on Mars and once said that he'd "like to be remembered as an innovator."

In addition to leading voyages to see the remnants of the Titanic, Rush had another surprising connection to the historic 1912 event: His wife Wendy Rush is the great-great-granddaughter of a couple who died on the Titanic, Ida and Isidor Straus.

Hamish Harding

British billionaire Hamish Harding confirmed he was a part of the mission in a June 17 Instagram post, a day before the submersible went into the water and disappeared.

"I am proud to finally announce that I joined @oceangateexped for their RMS TITANIC Mission as a mission specialist on the sub going down to the Titanic," he wrote. "Due to the worst winter in Newfoundland in 40 years, this mission is likely to be the first and only manned mission to the Titanic in 2023. A weather window has just opened up and we are going to attempt a dive tomorrow."

Harding—the chairman of aircraft company Action Aviation—said the group had started steaming from St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada and was planning to start dive operations around 4 a.m. on June 18. The 58-year-old added, "Until then we have a lot of preparations and briefings to do."

His past explorations included traveling to the deepest part of the ocean in the Mariana Trench, telling Gulf News in 2021, "It was an incredibly hostile environment. To travel to parts of the Challenger Deep where no human had ever been before was truly remarkable."

The Dubai-based businessman also circumnavigated the Earth by plane with the One More Orbit project and, last year, took a trip to space on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin New Shepard rocket. Harding shared his love for adventure with his son Giles, described as a "teen explorer" on his Instagram.

Paul-Henri Nargeolet

As for the fifth member, a representative for French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet told the New York Times that he was a passenger on the Titan, with Harding also referencing him on Instagram as a member of the team. 

The Times described him as a maritime expert who was previously part of the French Navy. The 71-year-old was a bonafide Titanic specialist and has traveled to the wreckage 35 times before. Nargeolet served as the director of RMS Titanic, Inc., a company that researches, salvages and displays artifacts from the famed ship, per the outlet. 

Alongside fellow passenger Hamish Harding, he was a member of The Explorers Club, founded in 1904.

The Titan

As Harding noted in his post, the submersible—named Titan—was a part of an OceanGate Expeditions tour that explores the wreckage of the RMS Titanic, which infamously sank in 1912.

The company expressed its sympathies to the families of the victims. "These men were true explorers who shared a distinct spirit of adventure, and a deep passion for exploring and protecting the world's oceans," OceanGate said in a statement. "Our hearts are with these five souls and every member of their families during this tragic time. We grieve the loss of life and joy they brought to everyone they knew."

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