'Mr Titanic's' stepson planned to tell him to give up adventures

EXCLUSIVE: ‘Mr Titanic’s’ stepson planned to tell the explorer to give up his deep-sea adventures before receiving the devastating news his submersible had imploded and says his remains should be left with the shipwreck that captivated his life

  • DailyMail.com spoke exclusively to the stepson of ‘Mr. Titanic,’ Paul-Henry Nargeolet, 77, one of the ‘Titanic Five’ who perished
  • ‘I know how much he loved the ocean and especially the Titanic,’ John Paschall, 31, said 
  • Paschall was thinking about telling his stepfather that he should finally give up his deep-sea adventures 

It’s still an open question whether the bodies of the ‘Titanic Five’ could be recovered from the ocean’s depths, but the stepson of the French explorer who perished said he believes his stepdad should remain in the North Atlantic – beside the Titanic shipwreck that became his life’s passion.

The 77-year-old Paul-Henry Nargeolet – dubbed ‘Mr. Titanic’ and among the five who lost their lives in the Titan – spent more than two decades in the French Navy before leading several expeditions to the famous wreck in the Atlantic Ocean. 

‘I know how much he loved the ocean and especially the Titanic,’ John Paschall, 31, said of his stepfather, speaking exclusively with DailyMail.com Thursday, just hours after the news broke that all five crew members of the Titan crew were killed. 

The US Coast Guard announced the submersible experienced a ‘catastrophic implosion’ just 1,600ft from the bow of the wrecked ocean liner.

‘I think that in terms of where he would ever want to lie and be, in my opinion, it would be there,’ Paschall said. ‘That’s a discussion the family is going to have. But I know how much he loved the ocean, loved the Titanic.’ 

John Paschall (pictured right), 31, the stepson of the British explorer Paul-Henry Nargeolet (pictured to his left) who perished said he believes his stepdad should remain in the North Atlantic – beside the Titanic shipwreck that became his life’s passion

The 77-year-old Paul-Henry Nargeolet – dubbed ‘Mr. Titanic’ and among the five who lost their lives in the submersible – spent more than two decades in the French Navy before leading several expeditions to the famous wreck in the Atlantic Ocean. 

On Thursday, Nargeolet was confirmed to have died in the tragedy, alongside the CEO of OceanGate, Stockton Rush, 61; British billionaire explorer Hamish Harding, 58; and Pakistani father and son Shahzada Dawood, 48; and Suleman Dawood, 19. 

Paschall, an editor for NBC Sports, is the son of late television news anchor Michele Marsh, who was married to Nargeolet until her death in 2017. 

READ MORE: Footage of ‘Mr Titanic’ days before he vanished on stricken sub

He said he was still praying for a miracle until Thursday morning when officials alerted him and other relatives that debris from the Titan had been found.

‘I’m still in a state of shock,’ he told DailyMail.com. ‘I’ve spent so much of this week having hope that a miracle could happen.

‘I was up very late [Wednesday] just keeping an eye on any correspondence with people who were out at sea, hanging on every word, and still in that moment believing we really were going to pull out a miracle,’ he said. 

‘I pictured everything I would say to PH (Paul-Henry) when I see him, the first meal we’d have, the first beer we’d have together, and all that stuff. I was so locked in on that. Then we heard from the Coast Guard about the debris.’ 

‘And then the news that it was a catastrophic event. Obviously getting the news was quite devastating.’

He had been thinking about telling his stepfather that he should finally give up his deep-sea adventures.

With 37 dives to the Titanic shipwreck under his belt, Nargeolet earned the title of a ‘super-hero’ in his native France after leading several expeditions to the famous wreck in the North Atlantic.

His unparalleled knowledge of the Titanic and the images he captured during his epic dives there helped inspire his friend James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster film.

‘I was so speechless thinking about what I’d say,’ Paschall told DailyMail.com. ‘There was a side of me thinking of telling him, ‘You’re not going to do this again, right?’ 

‘And then there’s another side of me that knows this is in his DNA in terms of exploring the sea and taking these risks and going to places that not many people have gone to.’

‘So one side of me was like, you’re going to stay on land, spend time with your family and all that,’ he said. ‘Then I was like, this is who he is.’

‘I also wanted to tell him how much I appreciate everything he’s done for me and my life, outside of all of his incredible explorations,’ he continued.

Paschall, who lives in Minnesota with his wife and baby, last saw his stepdad in early May, when he visited him on the East Coast. Nargeolet lived in Connecticut with his wife, Anne Sarraz-Bournet.

Paul-Henri Nargeolet is pictured on the right with some friends after they caught fish on a boat

Commander Paul-Henry Nargeolet, left, laughs with Millvina Dean, 84, of England at the Black Falcon Pier in Boston on Sept.1, 1996

Over dinner, Nargeolet mentioned his plans to take another plunge to the Titanic.

‘He mentioned this trip, but knowing PH I really didn’t think twice about it,’ the stepson recalled. ‘He’s just done this so many times, I was like, another exploration of the Titanic, here he goes.’

‘And now, looking back, I guess I had an irrational amount of confidence.

He last texted with Nargeolet a couple of weeks ago, arranging to visit him again on July 6 or 7.

‘I wasn’t even sure exactly when he was going down,’ he told DailyMail.com. ‘I just knew he’d be back in time so we could see him in July.’

The nail-biting search for the men on the Titan, a 21ft submersible operated by OceanGate Expeditions, drew to a devastating close when a remote-operated submarine found debris on the ocean floor.

Search and rescue officials say the men likely died on Sunday – before military planes using sonar buoys detected what they thought could have been SOS ‘banging’ sounds in the water.

The tragic news has opened a world of questions about exactly what went wrong, the subject of an ongoing investigation. 

Paschall, an editor for NBC Sports, is the son of late television news anchor Michele Marsh, who was married to Nargeolet until her death in 2017

Nargeolet is on board the missing OceanGate submersible, the Titan (file image) 

He is the director of underwater research for RMS Titanic, Inc, and has appeared on numerous films and documentaries on the ship

Paschall said he has questions, too, ‘but at the same time, I don’t want to rush to any judgement. I would like to see how everything unfolds in terms of the investigation before making any judgement.’

He believes no findings of wrongdoing will ease the pain of the victim’s families.

‘We could obviously play what ifs forever,’ Paschall said. ‘The reality is we lost five members of that crew and we have a bunch of devastated families that are really grieving right now. It’s not something we can turn back the clock and fix.’

He met Nargeolet during his freshman year in high school, and told a story about his stepdad helping him with a project on the building of a cell, getting him interested in science. 

Paschall also spoke of his graduation from Northwestern University in Chicago in 2017, when his mom and stepdad’s flight from Connecticut got cancelled, Nargeolet improvised to get his ailing mother to her only son’s graduation.

‘They were going to fly in the night before but their flight got canceled due to weather,’ he remembered. ‘And it was quite devastating for my mom because we went to the same university, and I’m an only child. So without hesitating, they threw themselves in his tiny blue Mini Cooper and he drove 16 hours across the country overnight and made it with about an hour to go before my graduation.’

‘At the time, my mom was very sick with breast cancer, and so to have her there meant so much to me and I know it meant an immense amount to her as well,’ he said.

‘It’s easy to Google my stepfather’s accomplishments,’ he continued. ‘It’s amazing and still blows my mind. But to me what I think about is the incredible person that he was and the impact he had on so many lives, family, friends, the people in the community where he lived. So many people loved him.’ 

He led the first recovery expedition of the Titanic in 1987 after specialising in deep submersibles

Asked why he thinks Nargeolet kept returning to the Titanic well into his golden years, he said, ‘It was just the mystery, the artifacts, the stories he discovered about the people on the ship, the intrigue, the unsinkable nature of the ship and how it all unfolded.’

‘We never really talked about the extreme risks of it,’ he said. ‘It was sort of understood in a way that things can happen, that the ocean can be unpredictable and that something bad can always happen.’

He pointed to an interview his stepfather gave in 2019, when Nargeolet, then 73, was asked whether he got scared diving 12,500 feet below the water’s surface to reach the Titanic.

‘If you are 11 meters or 11 kilometers down, if something bad happens, the results are the same,’ the mariner told the Irish Examiner at the time. ‘When you’re in deep water, you’re dead before you realize that something is happening, so it’s not a problem.’

Earlier Thursday evening, the immediate family of the French Titanic expert paid tribute to life’s work, remembering fondly his sense of humor and ‘his big heart’.

‘Our hearts are broken over the loss of our extraordinary father and husband,’ his family stated.’ He is a man who will be remembered as one of the greatest deep-sea explorers in modern history. When you think of the Titanic and all we know about the ship today, you will think of Paul-Henri Nargeolet and his legendary work. ‘

‘But what we will remember him most for is his big heart, his incredible sense of humor and how much he loved his family,’ the family added. ‘We will miss him today and every day for the rest of our lives.’

Stockton Rush, the 61-year-old founder and CEO of OceanGate Expeditions, is among the five people killed. He founded the company in 2009, and was piloting the craft

Five people were onboard, including British billionaire adventurer Hamish Harding, 58, and Shahzada Dawood and his son Suleman, who was just 19

The Titan submersible, operated by OceanGate Expeditions to explore the wreckage of the sunken SS Titanic

The Nargeolet family also thanked all those involved in the search and rescue efforts.

Nargeolet leaves behind a wife and three children, plus his stepson, Paschall. 

Sidonie Nargeolet, his 39-year-old daughter, also spoke Thursday, but before reports that debris from the vessel was found on the ocean floor.

‘He is very passionate about the Titanic since they found it 30 years ago and I know now he is at the place he would like to be,’ she told Reuters.

Sidonie said she learned about the accident on Monday, when she received a text message from her father’s spouse saying he should have been back at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

READ MORE: ‘Alive one millisecond, dead the next’: Former Navy doctor reveals exactly what would’ve happened during Titanic Five’s tragic final moment

‘I cried a lot,’ she said of her reaction to the news. She had last seen her father just before Christmas last year in Andorra.

‘He sent me a message a week before (getting in the submersible) telling me the weather was bad, so they hadn’t been able to go down, but that there was a great atmosphere,’ she said.

‘I sent him a message on Sunday for Father’s Day but he didn’t reply.’

Nargeolet’s love of diving and the oceans began at the age of nine when he discovered his ‘first wreck’ by following divers in Morocco.

And that passion led him to join the French Navy where he served for 22 years in mine disposal before becoming a ‘leading authority’ on the Titanic.

In 1986, Nargeolet was chosen by the French ocean research institute Ifremer to supervise the underwater research on the Titanic. At the time, the French navy commander had been clearing the Suez canal.

‘I wasn’t interested in the Titanic any more than that,’ Nargeolet told Le Parisien. ‘Admittedly I had seen or read reports on the subject, but I did not imagine that it was going to take such a big place in my life.’

In his position at the Ifremer, Nargeolet participated in the Five Deeps expedition, exploring the deepest parts of all five of Earth’s oceans and even breaking the record for the deepest submersible dive — at 10,928 meters, or 35,853 feet, below sea level.

By 1987 he led the first expedition to the Titanic, two years after its discovery.

He later said that when he came across the wreckage site for the first time, he and his two crew members were stunned into silence for 10 minutes as ‘we were at the foredeck, the most beautiful part where you saw the anchor chains, bronze winches still polished by the water and sedimentation… you could read perfectly they were made in Glasgow.’

‘That’s it, we’ve done it,’ Nargeolet exclaimed when they found the wreck.

Nargeolet became the director of underwater research for RMS Titanic, which owns the rights to the ship’s remains.

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