19-Year-Old Suleman Dawood Was 'Terrified' Of Going On Titanic Sub But Wanted To Make Dad Happy, Says Aunt

It’s easy to forget, amid all the talk of the OceanGate disaster killing CEOs and billionaires, that the youngest victim was only 19 years old. Just a kid really. And that young man was “terrified” of the excursion, according to his aunt.

Sadly, we got confirmation on Thursday that the submersible known as the Titan imploded — and all five souls on board were lost. Brit billionaire Hamish Harding, French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, and Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood — and his teenage son Suleman Dawood — were lost in the tragic trip to view the Titanic wreckage up close.

Now the Dawood family is speaking out about what was going on with the teen leading up to the excursion.

The Dawoods were heirs to one of the largest fortunes in Pakistan. 48-year-old Shahzada was the chairman of their family’s Dawood Group, which has been operating in the country for over a century. His son Suleman was still a university student. We’ve heard he was a big science fiction fan who enjoyed puzzles and volleyball. So much potential lost…

On Thursday, ahead of the confirmation of the implosion, Suleman’s aunt Azmeh Dawood spoke to NBC — and described her nephew’s apprehension for the trip in the days leading up to the submersible’s descent. Apparently, the teenager had told one of their relatives he “wasn’t very up for it” and felt “terrified” about going to explore the Titanic wreckage.

So why did he go? Azmeh notes the fact the trip fell on Father’s Day — and Suleman wanted to please his father, who was a huge Titanic enthusiast.

Azmeh recalled growing up with Shahzada, and his fascination with the Titanic, saying they’d constantly watch 1958’s drama A Night To Remember as children in Pakistan. The businessman’s interest in the historical wreckage followed him to adulthood, where he frequented museums and exhibits. She even recalls the first time Shahzada met her husband and asked if they could all watch a 4-hour documentary on the shipwreck together.

She said she never felt the same as her brother, however — and though his OceanGate ticket purchase was unsurprising she would never have gotten into that submersible:

“If you gave me a million dollars. I would not have gotten into the Titan.”

But Suleman went. And Azmeh said during the search that thought horrified her:

“I am thinking of Suleman, who is 19, in there, just perhaps gasping for breath … It’s been crippling, to be honest.”

Then, later on after the wreckage of the Titan was confirmed, Shahzada’s older sister expressed her devastation over the phone through sobs:

“I feel disbelief. It’s an unreal situation.”

She said she’d been watching news coverage of the submersible’s disappearance, and it was absolutely agonizing for her, as you can imagine:

“I feel like I’ve been caught in a really bad film, with a countdown, but you didn’t know what you’re counting down to. I personally have found it kind of difficult to breathe thinking of them. I never thought I would have an issue with drawing breath. It’s been unlike any experience I’ve ever had.”

So heartbreaking…

Sadly, Azmeh’s relationship with her brother had fallen out in recent years when she was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis in 2014. She and her husband moved to Amsterdam to have better access to medicinal cannabis because she had been “reduced to being in a wheelchair.” Due to her use of cannabis, a choice Shahzada and other family members disapproved of, they spoke less frequently. However, she says she still felt close to her nephew, who was “thoroughly good-hearted.”

Regardless of any estrangement though, the big sister and aunt of the victims gut-wrenchingly said as she weeped:

“He was my baby brother. I held him up when he was born.”

Azmeh said she spent Thursday afternoon looking at family photos and trying to make sense of the incredible loss, while also feeling terrible that the rest of the world had to face such “trauma” along with her family:

“I feel very bad that the whole world has had to go through so much trauma, so much suspense.”

Such a selfless sentiment. But obviously she shouldn’t be feeling bad for any of us right now.

Our hearts continue to be with the victims’ families and love ones as they navigate this unthinkable tragedy.

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