Posted by News Express | 4 December 2013 | 5,516 times
A Nigerian man who achieved the unimaginable by staying alive THREE DAYS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE ATLANTIC OCEAN after the ship in which he served as a cook capsized is hugging international headlines following the release of the footage revealing the exact moment he was rescued from the sunken tugboat.
Harrison Odjegba Okene survived by breathing an ever-dwindling supply of oxygen in an air pocket. Below is an account of the incident as captured yesterday in The Guardian of London:
‘As the temperature dropped to freezing, Okene, dressed only in boxer shorts, recited the last psalm his wife had sent by text message, sometimes called the Prayer for Deliverance: “Oh God, by your name, save me … The Lord sustains my life.”
‘Okene believes his rescue in May after 72 hours under water at a depth of 30 metres (about 100ft) is a sign of divine deliverance. The other 11 crew on board the Jascon 4 died when it sunk.
Divers sent to the scene were only looking for bodies, according to Tony Walker, project manager for the Dutch company DCN Diving, which was working on a neighboring oil field 75 miles (120km) away.
‘The divers had already pulled up four bodies. So when a hand appeared on the TV screen Walker was monitoring in the rescue boat, showing what the diver in the Jascon saw, everybody assumed it was another corpse.
‘ “The diver acknowledged that he had seen the hand and then, when he went to grab the hand, the hand grabbed him,” Walker said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
‘ “It was frightening for everybody,” he said. “For the guy that was trapped because he didn’t know what was happening. It was a shock for the diver while he was down there looking for bodies, and we [in the control room] shot back when the hand grabbed him on the screen.”
‘On the video, there’s an exclamation of fear and shock from Okene’s rescuer, and then joy as the realisation sets in. Okene recalls hearing: “There’s a survivor! He’s alive.”
‘Walker said Okene couldn't have lasted much longer.
‘ “He was incredibly lucky he was in an air pocket but he would have had a limited time [before] ... he wouldn’t be able to breath anymore.”
‘Okene was in the toilet at 4.30am on 26 Maywhen the tug, one of three towing an oil tanker in Nigeria’s delta waters, gave a sudden lurch and then keeled over.
‘ “I was dazed and everywhere was dark as I was thrown from one end of the small cubicle to another,” Okene said in an interview with the Lagos-based Nation newspaper.
‘He groped his way out of the toilet and tried to find a vent. He discovered some tools and a life vest with two flashlights, which he stuffed into his shorts. When he found a cabin that felt safe, he stayed put, getting colder as he played back a mental tape of his life.
‘He worried about the 10 Nigerians and the Ukrainian captain who would have locked themselves in their cabins as standard procedure in an area stalked by pirates.
As the water rose, Okene made a rack on top of a platform and piled two mattresses on top. He survived on one bottle of cola.
‘ “I started calling on the name of God … I started reminiscing on the verses I read before I slept. I read the Bible from Psalm 54 to 92. My wife had sent me the verses to read that night when she called me before I went to bed.”
‘Okene thought he was going to die, he told the Nation, when he heard the sound of a boat engine and anchor dropping, but failed to get the attention of rescuers. He then waded across the cabin, stripped the wall to its steel body and banged on it with a hammer. But “I heard them moving away. They were far away from where I was.”
‘By the time he was saved, relatives had already had been told the sailors were dead.
Okene was rescued by a diver who first used hot water to warm him up, then attached him to an oxygen mask. Once free of the boat, he was put into a decompression chamber and safely returned to the surface.’
•Photo shows ship’s cook Harrison Okene, who spent three days under water after his tugboat sank off the coast of Nigeria. Photograph: DCN Diving Group / Barcroft USA.
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