What if one moment you were just cooking some meat pies on a boat, and the next you were stuck at the bottom of the cold, dark ocean, breathing from an air bubble while your friends were being eaten by fish? Yea, that would suck.
29-year-old Harrison Okene was a cook for the Jascon-4 tugboat crew in Nigeria. While out stabilizing a refueling oil tanker off the coast of Delta State, a large ocean swell capsized the Jascon-4, sending Okene and his crew 30 meters down to the bottom of the ocean.
Okene managed to survive more than two days by breathing from a 4 foot tall air bubble in a bathroom. His description of the ordeal is nothing short of incredible.
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...I was so hungry but mostly so, so thirsty. The salt water took the skin off my tongue.
Okene used an overturned washbasin to stay afloat, but the cold water was taking its toll. He decided to leave his air bubble to build a raft out of wall paneling. What greeted him as soon as he left the bathroom was terrifying.
I was very, very cold and it was black. I couldn't see anything...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.
After about 60 hours stuck in a ship at the bottom of the ocean, Okene heard a sound.
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.
Seeing that a diver was about to swim past his room, Okene jumped into the water and tapped the diver on the shoulder. The diver gave Okene an oxygen mask and a suit, and after more than two days under the ocean, Okene made it to the surface. The same cannot be said about ten of his crew members, who were found dead in the wreckage. One of his crew members is still missing.
Okene had to go through over 60 hours of decompression to safely get his body pressure back to normal. While he's physically fully recovered, he still has nightmares about the ordeal.
Photo Credit: Marc AuMarc