A 29-year-old cook ‘miraculously’ survives two days at the bottom of the sea after a shipwreck 20 miles off the coast of Nigeria. Many calls him the 'modern day Jonah.'
“I don’t know what stopped the water from filling that room. I was calling on God. He did it. It was a miracle,” said Harrison Okene, who was on board the Jascon-4 tugboat when it capsized on May 26, according to Reuters.
The tugboat capsized due to heavy Atlantic Ocean swells, while stabilizing an oil tanker filling up at the Chevron platform. Of the 12 people on board, divers recovered 10 dead bodies while a remaining crew member has not been found.
"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."
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 survived, breathing inside a four foot 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.
For the next two and half days, Okene remained trapped in total darkness under the sea praying that he would be found. “I kept thinking the water was going to fill up the room but it did not,” he said.
Wearing only his underpants, Okene survived around a day in the four foot square toilet, holding onto the overturned water basin to keep his head out of the water.
He swam into the adjoining room and pulled off the wall paneling to use as a tiny raft to lift himself out of the freezing water.
“I was very, very cold and it was black. I couldn’t see anything,” he told Reuters.
In the afternoon of May 28th, Okene heard a sound of hammer hitting the vessel. He used a water filter and hammered the side of the vessel hoping someone would hear him.
Divers sent by Chevron and the ship’s owners, West African Ventures, were searching for crew members, assumed by now to be dead. They broke into the ship and Okene saw light from a head torch of someone swimming along the passage way past the room.
“I went into the water and tapped him. I was waving my hands and he was shocked,” Okene said.
The diving team fitted Okene with an oxygen mask, diver’s suit and helmet and he reached the surface at more than 60 hours after the ship sank.
Then, 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 described his extraordinary survival story as a “miracle.”