Boris Johnson has paid tribute to the “heroes” who died in the Titan submersible tragedy and lashed out at “lefties” who have questioned the expedition to the Titanic wreckage.

Five members of the OceanGate Expeditions crew – including the company’s chief executive Stockton Rush – died in a “catastrophic implosion” after the vessel lost contact with the tour operator one hour and 45 minutes into its descent.

Those also on board were British billionaire businessman and adventurer Hamish Harding, another UK-based Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood with his son Suleman, and former diver Paul-Henry Nargeolet.

A desperate four-day search and rescue operation unfolded after communication was lost, but debris found on Thursday revealed the vessel had imploded. It is said to have killed all the crew instantly.

OceanGate has since defended the mission amid criticism from individuals such as ‘Titanic’ director James Cameron, who said that the company was “not heeding warnings” before launching the Titan.

Former prime minister Mr Johnson has now waded in, using his second column for the Daily Mail to say the crew members died while “pushing out the frontiers of human knowledge and experience” – saying it filled him with “pride”.

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Former prime minister Boris Johnson called those who died on board the Titan ‘heroes’

(PA Wire)

“[Hamish] Harding and his friends died in a cause — pushing out the frontiers of human knowledge and experience — that is typically British, and that fills me with pride,” he wrote in his 1,200-word column.

“Yes, there were risks, and warnings. But every great advance must inevitably involve experiment, and equipment that can seem, in retrospect, dangerously inadequate.”

(Dirty Dozen Productions/OceanGate/AFP/Getty)

The former prime minister’s appointment as a columnist for the newspaper was ruled a “clear breach” of ministerial rules by Whitehall’s anti-corruption watchdog last week.

Mr Johnson landed the job a day after he became the first former prime minister to be found to have lied to the Commons, in the publication of the damning report into his partygate denials.

His comments follow James Cameron, who directed the film Titanic, telling the BBC: “We now have another wreck that is based on, unfortunately, the same principles of not heeding warnings.”

It was also reported on Friday that Mr Rush had brushed off warnings about the safety of the Titan.

In emails seen by the BBC, Mr Rush was quoted as saying: “We have heard the baseless cries of ‘you are going to kill someone’ way too often.”

“[I am] tired of industry players who try to use a safety argument to stop innovation,” he added.

Hamish Harding’s cousin says he died ‘doing something he loved’

Meanwhile, the co-founder of a Titanic expeditions company defended the firm after the “catastrophic implosion” emerged on Thursday.

Guillermo Sohnlein said: “The regulations are pretty sparse. And many of them are antiquated, or they’re designed for specific instances. So it’s kind of tricky to navigate those regulatory schemes.”

He added: “[Mr Rush] was extremely committed to safety. He was also extremely diligent about managing risks, and was very keenly aware of the dangers of operating in a deep ocean environment.

“I know from first-hand experience that we were extremely committed to safety and safety and risk mitigation was a key part of the company culture.”

The co-founder of Titan’s parent company has defended the safety of the submersible

(PA Media)

In his essay, Mr Johnson also hit out at the “Leftie Twittersphere” he said was “awash with criticism” about the trip to the Titanic before the news of the implosion. Mr Johnson argued the “mission was so important” it “should be valued by left-wingers as well as everyone else”.

Mr Johnson singled out remarks by commentator Ash Sarkar, who had tweeted: “If the super-rich can spend £250,000 on vanity jaunts 2.4 miles beneath the ocean then they’re not being taxed enough. We get well-funded public services, they get saved from the consequences of their own hubris. What’s not to like?”

The former PM wrote in his column: “Well, Ash, without in any way minimising the migrants’ tragedy, let me tell you how I feel about those on the Titanic expedition. I think they are heroes.”

He suggested there is no way of knowing whether the undersea world is full of riches such as rare metals “if we don’t look”.

“That is why this mission was so important, and should be valued by Left-wingers as well as ­everyone else. Yes, there were risks, and warnings. But every great advance must inevitably involve ­experiment, and equipment that can seem, in retrospect, ­dangerously inadequate.

“Hamish Harding and his fellows were trying to take a new step for humanity, to popularise undersea travel, to democratise the ocean floor. They knew the dangers.”

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