EXCLUSIVE: A U.S. congressman who served as a nuclear submarine officer in the U.S. Navy is calling for the force to take action in the search for a missing tourist submersible destined for the wreckage of the Titanic that disappeared on Sunday.
“I have 500 days at sea on a submarine, so my heart really goes out to the missing crewmen and their families. The United States Navy needs to step up and do everything possible to help locate that submarine as quickly as possible,” Rep. Brandon Williams, R-N.Y., told Fox News Digital Monday evening.
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) confirmed to Fox earlier in the day that they were currently searching for a lost Titan submersible. Tourists can charter the small craft for visits to the Titanic through OceanGate Expeditions (OGE), which recently announced new mission crews for a North Atlantic trip on social media.
“We have the best sonar operators in the world, we have the best sonar equipment in the world, and locating the missing submarine is the first step to recovering the crew—time is against us. The United States Navy, I hope, is offering all assistance necessary,” Williams said.
Williams, who joined the Navy in 1991, volunteered to serve as a nuclear submarine officer and went through the Navy’s grueling nuclear engineering training. He completed six strategic-deterrent patrols aboard the USS Georgia, serving as the Strategic Missile Officer, before leaving the military in 1996.
He stressed the need to avoid wasting time in rescuing the lost submersible in a Tweet he posted earlier Monday.
“[U.S. Navy] —deploy a nuclear submarine to find our civilian friends [OceanGate Expeditions]. Don’t wait, get the best sonar operators in the world in a position to help rescue the lost submersible and it’s crew, while there is still hope!” he wrote.
The Coast Guard says there are five people on board the missing vessel, consisting of one crew member and four “mission specialists,” and that it is conducting an air search for the vehicle, which is designed to surface automatically if there are technical issues.
“We are exploring and mobilizing all options to bring the crew back safely,” OceanGate announced in a statement. “Our entire focus is on the crewmembers in the submersible and their families. We are deeply thankful for the extensive assistance we have received from several government agencies and deep sea companies in our efforts to reestablish contact with the submersible. We are working toward the safe return of the crewmembers.”
The USCG Northeast has deployed a C-130 aircraft to search for the vehicle on the surface. Rescue Coordination Center Halifax has also deployed a P-8 Poseidon aircraft, which can drop sonar buoys to search underwater. Other aircraft are en route from both the U.S. and Canada.
The Titan submersible is advertised to have enough life support to keep five people alive for 96 hours, meaning rescuers still have 72 hours to find the vehicle, unless it suffered catastrophic failure and failed to surface.
Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.