Ever since humans began sailing the seas, shipwrecks have been an unfortunate but realistic consequence. While most people may think of large-scale shipwrecks, such as the Titanic, it is possible for smaller, regular boats to wind up sinking too. And some shipwreck stories are even stranger than we can imagine.
Unfortunately, in May 2013 off the Nigerian coast, a tugboat named Jascon-4 was helping to stabilize an oil tanker when it wound up getting capsized amid stormy weather. Instantly, the boat began to sink with a full crew on board. Many of the crew members were inside their rooms, which thwarted their chances of surviving. But Harrison Okene, the tugboat’s chef, was in the bathroom as the boat flipped over.
In a stroke of pure luck, Okene found his way to an air pocket that had formed in the engineer’s office. There he managed to keep himself elevated out of the water so that he didn’t succumb to hypothermia — and he waited.
Then, three days later, a group of divers who were searching the shipwreck for bodies found Okene miraculously still alive. They gave him water and were able to get him out of the boat safely, before he was taken to a decompression chamber and ultimately brought to the surface.
Okene’s story of survival is a truly incredible one. Not only is it a miracle that he was in the location that he was, but his perseverance over 60 hours underwater showed his mental as well as physical strength. Let’s take a look at his amazing story.
It was May 26, 2013, when the tugboat Jascon-4 was attempting to stabilize an oil tanker in the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. The location was approximately 20 miles off the coast of Nigeria, and the weather conditions weren’t looking good. In a single moment, heavy seas due to stormy weather capsized the tugboat while all of its crew members were inside.
As the boat sunk to the ocean floor, the crew, who had mostly been locked in their rooms, stood almost no chance of surviving. However, one crew member named Harrison Okene, who was the tugboat’s chef, was in the bathroom as the boat capsized.
Soon enough the boat landed upside down on the sea bottom, 98 feet below the surface. Eleven of the crew members perished, but Okene managed to feel his way in total darkness to the engineer’s office, where an air pocket had miraculously formed. Space was 3-feet-11-inches high and had enough air to keep him alive.
Okene used his survival instincts to build a makeshift platform out of a mattress and other materials so that his upper body would stay above water and therefore help reduce heat loss. He also managed to find a bottle of Coca-Cola and a life vest with two flashlights. And then he waited, hoping for a miracle.
Soon Okene heard noises, but instead of it being a rescue crew, he realized it was sharks, which we are sure was a terrifying moment for this man. Despite being hopeful, the outlook for Okene wasn’t good.
A long stretch of time had passed — 60 hours and 30 minutes to be exact — and by this point, Okene had assumed the worst and almost given up hope. But then he heard sounds coming from the water once again. However, this time they didn’t sound like the ones he had heard earlier. So he took a chance and put his hand out under the water, and to his shock, it was a diver!
Three South African divers — Nicolaas van Heerden, Darryl Oosthuizen and Andre Erasmus — had come to the wreckage to investigate the scene and recover the bodies. But what they probably didn’t expect to find was a survivor!
In the video footage that’s been released — which has gone on to viral fame, amounting to over 2.3 million views on YouTube — one of the divers can be seen finding Okene and gaining his trust by asking him his name and follow-up questions. Clearly in shock, Okene was no doubt incredibly happy to have been found by the divers, but perhaps he thought he was hallucinating things too.
Without hesitating, the divers fitted him with a diving helmet and transferred him to a diving bell, preparing him to be brought to the surface for decompression. Upon arrival it was nighttime, causing Okene to believe he had spent the entire day underwater. He was completely shocked to learn he’d survived 60 hours down there.
Okene’s story is miraculous in that it ends well, but in almost any other version of events, it’s likely he wouldn’t have made it. Even though he did, his ordeal was tough and is no doubt an experience he won’t forget anytime soon.