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OceanGate neighbor speaks out in defense of missing submersible

Safety allegations have cropped up about the missing submersible on a trek to visit the Titanic, but some who watched the Titan come together in the North Sound are pushing back.

A neighbor who watched the team build the sub is defending the company and thinking about the fate of those on board.

“It’s about as scary as it gets. It’s about the scariest scenario you can imagine yourself in,” said 24-year-old Riley Sperbeck, who works in the shipyard behind OceanGate.

Sperbeck said he would speak with the engineers from time to time about the project.

“All of these ballasts, hoses, electrical systems are exposed, and you see the battery bank,” Sperbeck said. “They’re designing something akin to spacecraft.”

Titan’s safety came under scrutiny after a CBS Sunday Morning report last year showed how some mechanisms on the Titan might be unexpected. CEO Stockton Rush pointed to some components that came off the shelf, a handle that came from Camper World, and said ‘We run this whole thing with a game controller.’”  

There was also a 2018 lawsuit that voiced safety concerns.

Maritime salvage expert – Bob Mester from Puyallup – has extensive experience with subs. He has also been aboard the Titan while it was on land.

“That’s ok. I think you wouldn’t find one of those controllers in a space shuttle – however, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t working or not acceptable,” Mester said.

Rush was piloting the sub when it went missing. He told CBS last year that there was no compromise on critical safety elements

“The pressure vessel is not macgyvered at all because that’s where we worked with Boeing, NASA, and the University of Washington,” he said.

Sperbeck said he’d watch the vessel be worked on in the “back 40″ of the shipyard.

“These guys are extremely smart and the last thing I want to hear is they don’t know what they’re doing,” Sperbeck said. “In my brain, they’re the Apollo crew. These guys are the NASA of the marine service industry.”

OceanGate has said the vessel can dive about 13,000 feet with a comfortable safety margin. The wreckage of the Titanic, which the missing sub, Titan, was touring, is about 12,500 feet at the bottom of the Atlantic.