A Nigerian cook, wearing only boxer shorts, survived for roughly 60 hours in the Atlantic Ocean, after locating a pocket of air inside the sunken tugboat he was in
Harrison Odjegba Okene, 29, was the cook on a tugboat called Jacson-4, which sunk about 20 miles off the Nigerian coast on May 26th. Jacson-4 capsized while stabilizing an oil tanker filling up at a Chevron platform during rough seas. Eleven other crew members drowned, but Okene was able to find a small air pocket, which sustained him for almost three days, before South African divers found him.
Okene says he was in the bathroom when he realized the tugboat was beginning to capsize, and as water began pouring in, he flung open the door to the toilet and made his way to a small adjoining crew quarter. For almost 60 hours, the cook was then amazingly able to survive while breathing on a slowly diminishing 4-foot pocket of air, over 90 feet below the surface of the ocean.
Here’s a surreal clip of the rescue:
“I was there in the water in total darkness just thinking it’s the end. I kept thinking the water was going to fill up the room but it did not,” Okene said, adding, “I was so hungry but mostly so, so thirsty. The salt water took the skin off my tongue.” Seawater got into his mouth, which chafed his tongue, though he had nothing to eat or drink during his time in the air bubble.
At one point, Okene decided to swim into the officer’s quarters to retrieve some wall paneling to attempt to build a small raft to keep his body more elevated. At this point, he felt that he wasn’t alone – “I was very, very cold and it was black. I couldn’t see anything,” Okene said, “But I could perceive the dead bodies of my crew were nearby. I could smell them. The fish came in and began eating the bodies. I could hear the sound. It was horror.”
As time wore on in the wreckage, Okene recited a psalm his wife had sent by text message:
Oh God, by your name, save me. … The Lord sustains my life.
Eventually Chevron and the ship’s owners, West African Ventures, were searching for crew members, and Okene heard them on May 28. “I heard a sound of a hammer hitting the vessel. Boom, boom, boom. I swam down and found a water dispenser. I pulled the water filter and I hammered the side of the vessel hoping someone would hear me. Then the diver must have heard a sound.”
Divers rescued Okene, who then spent an additional 60 hours in a decompression chamber. There was a chance he wouldn’t survive if immediately exposed to normal atmospheric pressure.
Image via YouTube.