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NC professor linked to missing submersible is ‘safe,’ university says

WILMINGTON, N.C. — A research professor from North Carolina is part of the team that launched a submersible to explore the HMS Titanic, and while the submersible still hasn’t been located as of Tuesday, the university says he is safe.

Dr. Steve Ross with UNC-Wilmington is renowned for his marine research, and he’s serving as the chief scientist for OceanGate, the foundation that created the Titan submersible.

The Titan submerged Sunday morning for a trip to the shipwreck site of the Titanic. It lost contact with its support vessel about an hour and 45 minutes after it went under, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The Titan has made multiple dives to the site before, and the ship that carried the Titan has ferried dozens of people to the wreck site in the Atlantic.

OceanGate says Ross is currently working on “community assessment of unique deep-water habitats.” Ross is reportedly on the support vessel, and a spokesperson for UNC Wilmington said he is currently “safe, but unreachable.”

According to OceanGate, Ross has authored the most peer-reviewed journal articles resulting from ocean exploration missions.

With no contact, it’s not clear what the status of the submersible is. Researchers say there are several possibilities, including a power blackout, fire, or flood. In the case of a fire or flood, there would be nearly zero chance of a successful rescue. The passengers only have a limited amount of breathable air available, and that could run out by Thursday morning.

Over 10,000 square miles of ocean had been searched as of Tuesday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Rescuers are using ships, aircraft, and sonar buoys to try and find the missing submersible. Another commercial company’s submersible and support equipment is being moved from Buffalo, New York, to St. John’s to aid in the search.

(WATCH: VIDEO: Time running out for people on missing submersible)

Andrew McMillan, wsoctv.com

Andrew McMillan is the Digital Content Manager for WSOC-TV.

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