▶ Watch Video: Stepson shares memories of “Mr. Titanic,” who was lost in OceanGate sub tragedy

French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet was one of five passengers who died aboard the Titan submersible, which the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed on Thursday experienced a “catastrophic implosion” near the wreckage of the Titanic.  

John Paschall, stepson of Nargeolet, spoke to CBS New York just hours after the Coast Guard reported that it had discovered two debris fields on the sea floor which were pieces of the missing OceanGate sub. 

Paschall, who is also the son of late CBS New York anchor Michele Marsh, said Nargeolet was known affectionately as “Mr. Titanic” due to his expertise on the doomed cruise ship. 

“We focus so much on everything he did in the water, but I feel like some of his greatest accomplishments, too, were out of the water,” Paschall said. “I understand that in life it is sometimes not easy to be a stepfather, when you are coming into a situation where my father was still in the picture and I had a great relationship with him, but he was always so respectful of my relationship with him and he was such an important part of my life.

Nargeolet was the director of underwater research for RMS Titanic, an American company that owns the salvage rights to the wreck and operates exhibits featuring artifacts from the ship. About 30 million people have visited its exhibits, according to the company.

In an interview with CBS News this week, G. Michael Harris, founder of RMS Titanic, said that he has worked with Nargeolet for the past 30 years, describing him as an “all-around good guy.” 

“We first met in my freshman year of high school,” Paschall said. “I remember the first thing he did for me that was so meaningful was he helped me with a science project on the building of a cell and creating a model of it, and I ended up getting an ‘A’ on it. Science is now my favorite subject, and it was one of those things where he never forced any help. I went and asked and he just did it.”

Nargeolet leaves behind a wife and three other children. Paschall said it was rewarding to have his stepfather be part of his young son’s life, if only for a short period of time.

“I was very happy that we were able to have that meeting occur,” Paschall said. “My son was born early in 2022, in January, and to be able to have that moment with him, to have him hold him, meant a lot. P-H has just meant a lot to me, my family. He had such a close relationship with my mom. It was so meaningful to me in so many ways growing up.”

Paschall said he can take solace in the fact that his stepfather died doing what he loved — exploring and being an adventurer.

“Yeah, I think in my own opinion his home away from home was the ocean. He just felt so comfortable there,” Paschall said. “I know so much of the focus of this discussion is about risk, and I felt he just accepted the risk and knew what it was, but he loved what he did. The Titanic meant so much to him, every artifact he brought up, whether it was small or it was large, meant so much to him.”

The other four people aboard the sub — which went missing Sunday, less than two hours into its dive — were British businessman Hamish Harding, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his teenage son Suleman, and OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush.