SA divers save man from horror fate

2013-06-12 17:42
Police divers (Chris Botha, Netcare911)

Police divers (Chris Botha, Netcare911)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

  • Nigeria
    How Ethnic Rivalry and Religious Fundamentalism Threatens Africa's Most Populous Nation Was R342.95 Now R308.66
    buy now

Warri - After two days trapped in freezing cold water and breathing from an air bubble in an upturned tugboat under the ocean, Harrison Okene was sure he was going to die. Then a torch light pierced the darkness.

Ship's cook Okene, 29, was on board the Jascon-4 tugboat when it capsized on 26 May due to heavy Atlantic ocean swells around 30km off the coast of Nigeria, while stabilising an oil tanker filling up at a Chevron platform.

Of the 12 people on board, divers recovered 10 dead bodies while a remaining crew member has not been found.

Somehow Okene survived, breathing inside a 1.2m- high bubble of air as it shrunk in the waters slowly rising from the ceiling of the tiny toilet and adjoining bedroom where he sought refuge, until two South African divers eventually rescued him.

"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, parts of his skin peeling away after days soaking in the salt water.

"I was so hungry but mostly so, so thirsty. The salt water took the skin off my tongue," he said. Seawater got into his mouth, but he had nothing to eat or drink throughout his ordeal.

At 04:50 on 26 May, Okene says he was in the toilet when he realised the tugboat was beginning to turn over. As water rushed in and the Jascon-4 flipped, he forced open the metal door.

"As I was coming out of the toilet it was pitch black so we were trying to link our way out to the water tidal [exit hatch]," Okene told Reuters in his home town of Warri, a city in Nigeria's oil-producing Niger Delta.

"Three guys were in front of me and suddenly water rushed in full force. I saw the first one, the second one, the third one just washed away. I knew these guys were dead."

Smell bodies

What he didn't know was that he would spend the next two and a half days trapped under the sea praying he would be found.

Turning away from his only exit, Okene was swept along a narrow passageway by surging water into another toilet, this time adjoining a ship's officers cabin, as the overturned boat crashed onto the ocean floor. To his amazement he was still breathing.

Okene, wearing only his underpants, survived around a day in the .37m² toilet, holding onto the overturned washbasin to keep his head out of the water.

He built up the courage to open the door and swim into the officer's bedroom and began pulling off the wall panelling to use as a tiny raft to lift himself out of the freezing water.

He sensed he was not alone in the darkness.

"I was very, very cold and it was black. I couldn't see anything," says Okene, staring into the middle distance.

"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."

What Okene didn't know was a team of divers sent by Chevron and the ship's owners, West African Ventures, were searching for crew, assumed by now to be dead.

Then in the afternoon of 28 May, Okene heard them.

Boom, boom, boom

"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 broke into the ship and Okene saw light from a head torch of someone swimming along the passageway past the room.

"I went into the water and tapped him. I was waving my hands and he was shocked," Okene said, his relief still visible.

He thought he was at the bottom of the sea, although the company says it was 30m below.

The diving team fitted Okene with an oxygen mask, diver's suit and helmet and he reached the surface at 19:32, more than 60 hours after the ship sank, he says.

Okene says he spent another 60 hours in a decompression chamber where his body pressure was returned to normal. Had he just been exposed immediately to the outside air he would have died.

The cook describes his extraordinary survival story as a "miracle" but the memories of his time in the watery darkness still haunt him and he is not sure he will return to the sea.

"When I am at home sometimes it feels like the bed I am sleeping in is sinking. I think I'm still in the sea again. I jump up and I scream," Okene said, shaking his head.

"I don't know what stopped the water from filling that room. I was calling on God. He did it. It was a miracle."

Read more on:    nigeria  |  west africa  |  maritime
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
40 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Sport
 

Printable solar panels will bring exciting new opportunities!

Printed sheets of flexible solar cells can mean your electronic devices can soon be charged with the use of renewable energy.

 
 

For chic geeks...

Now there’s a special lane for texting while walking
LOL! 7 brutally honest texts from parents
This lock means keys are something of the past!
7 things you didn't know about Apple

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at kalahari.com

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

30% off new fiction books!

Save 30% on new captivating books from great authors such as Wilbur Smith, James Pettereson and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

Camping gear!

We’ve got all your camping must have’s right here at mind blowing low prices. Check them out now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

As the Moon moves out of restless Gemini into sensitive Cancer today you are able to relax your active mind and be more receptive...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.