Titan’s Hamish Harding: A true friend of Sri Lanka | Page 3 | Sunday Observer

Titan’s Hamish Harding: A true friend of Sri Lanka

9 July, 2023

On June 18, 58-year-old British billionaire adventurer Hamish Harding lost his life in the Titan submersible implosion. He is one of the few people who had been to space (on board the Blue Origin, of Jeff Bezos’ space company) and also to the depths of the ocean. He was keen to become one of the few people who had witnessed the wreck of the ill-fated Titanic ocean liner with their own eyes. He was one of the five people who lost their lives in the Titan’s implosion at a depth of about 4 Km, close to the wreck of the Titanic which sank in 1912. Following his death several stories of his close connections to Sri Lanka have surfaced. Harding apparently loved Sri Lanka and had visited the island many times. This is yet another similar story.

Hamish Harding with family members after setting a Guinness world record

According to a long-time Sri Lankan friend of Harding, the billionaire had plans to invest in Sri Lanka and was expected to visit the country following his once-in-a-lifetime adventure in the Titan submersible. The friend is Rangitha Herath, a Civil Engineer involved in many international projects as well as in Sri Lanka.

“As I recently returned to Sri Lanka, Hamish phoned me two months prior to his Titan trip and said he would visit Sri Lanka soon,” she said in a conversation with the Sunday Observer. According to Herath, Harding had visited her ancestral home in Kandy on one previous occasion as well.

Visiting Sri Pada mountain

She said Harding had expressed his interest in visiting the sacred Sri Pada mountain and Arugam Bay on the East Coast during his next visit to Sri Lanka along with his family.

According to Herath, their friendship which began in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) spanned over two decades. Harding provided much-needed knowledge on the construction of Helipads in major building sites in Dubai and met Herath often during these important meetings.

“He always appreciated my ability to overcome challenges as a woman in such a male-dominated field,” she said.

Herath recalled the exchange of knowledge between the two and the many useful discussions over the years. “He was generous with his professional knowledge and advice,” she said.

Herath said Harding had a deep interest in Buddhist philosophy and had started living according to such principles. Herath also said she gifted books on Buddhism to Harding several times which he had read keenly.

“In 2004 he launched a company called Action Aviation in Dubai. I tied a pirith thread on his hand and wished him well on that important milestone. His untimely demise is really devastating,” she said.

Orbit in Dubai

Herath said, Harding even facilitated and supported her interest in learning to pilot light aircraft and getting a Private Pilot’s licence (PPL). She said he had intended to launch a project called Orbit in Dubai and wanted her contribution to it as well.

According to Herath, Harding last visited Sri Lanka between June - July 2014. “He contacted me when he lost his wallet in Sri Lanka. I contacted the Aviation authorities and requested their support. Later, he informed me it was found and returned by a youth in Kurunegala. He praised the young man profusely” she said. This particular story was published in several local websites.

“In 2004, when the Indian Ocean tsunami happened on Boxing Day, Hamish was the first to call and inform me about it. I was in Dubai at the time. Hamish donated over seven containers of essential goods to Sri Lanka at the time to be distributed among those who were affected by the disaster in the Southern Province,” she said.

According to Herath, Harding was keen to invest in Sri Lanka and support its development. She said he loved Sri Lanka’s beauty and the tenacity and resilience of its citizens. “He believed Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans could do many great things,” she said.

“In 2019, a group of representatives from his company visited Sri Lanka as Hamish wanted to commence a Medivac (Medical Evacuation) project here. But it did not take off. Later he expressed his desire to commence a similar project based on the Port City. But it was unfortunately not to be,” she said while expressing her condolences to Harding’s family and close friends.