Mom of Teenage Titan Sub Passenger Says She Gave Up Her Seat for Him to Go on Journey

Christine Dawood, the mom of 19-year-old Titan sub passenger Suleman Dawood, revealed she originally intended to make the journey to the Titanic wreckage alongside husband Shahzada Dawood.

By Kisha Forde Jun 26, 2023 1:54 PMTags
Watch: Mom of Titan Sub Victim Says She Gave Son Her Spot

Christine Dawood is sharing heartbreaking details behind the Titan sub catastrophe.

Four days after the company operating the Titanic research vessel stated that all five members aboard were presumed dead, the mom of passenger Suleman Dawood, 19, revealed she originally had a seat on the OceanGate sub alongside her husband Shahzada Dawood. However, the trip was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic.

"Then I stepped back and gave them space to set [Suleman] up," Christine told the BBC June 26. "Because he really wanted to go."

As she explained, the college student also brought a Rubik's Cube along with him, hoping to make history as the world's fastest solver of the puzzle. She recalled, "He said, 'I'm going to solve the Rubik's Cube 3,700 metres below sea at the Titanic."

"I was really happy for them because both of them," she said, "they really wanted to do that for a very long time."

Famous Freak Accidents

In addition to Suleman and his dad Shahzada, 48, OceanGate's CEO Stockton Rush, as well as billionaire Hamish Harding and explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet were all aboard the submersible when it went missing on June 18 just hours into its journey to the Titanic wreckage in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Christine—who previously recounted surviving a near-death plane incident with Shahzada—also reflected on the moment she came to the harrowing realization about her husband and son's fate.

Engro Corporation Limited via AP

"I think I lost hope when we passed the 96 hours mark," she shared, adding that she sent a message to her family. "I said: 'I'm preparing for the worst.'"

Four days after the search launched, U.S. Coast Guard officials announced in a press conference that debris from an external part of the vessel was found about 1,600 feet away from the famous shipwreck, consistent with a catastrophic implosion.

One day after the tragic development, Suleman and Shahzada's family paid tribute to the father-son duo.

Courtesy Dawood family

"In this unfathomable tragedy, we try to find solace in the enduring legacy of humility and humanity that they have left behind," the family's obituary shared to Glasgow Live June 23 read, "and find comfort in the belief that they passed on to the next leg of their spiritual journey hand-in-hand, father and son."

Noting that the bond between Shahzada and Suleman "was a joy to behold," the family added that "they were each other's greatest supporters and cherished a shared passion for adventure and exploration of all the world had to offer them."

Read on for more details on the five passengers aboard the Titanic sub.

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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