Incredible rescue of man who survived days 160ft underwater caught on camera

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By VT

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At 5AM off the coast of Nigeria on the stormy, rain-swept morning of Sunday, May 26, 2013, one of the most remarkable survival stories of all time occurred onboard a doomed cargo ship.

Harrison Okene was working as a cook onboard a tugboat with a crew of 12 off the Nigerian coast. The crew were on a mission to secure a shipment of fuel from a nearby Chevron oil platform.

But on the night of the disaster, an enormous wave came out of nowhere and smashed into the small vessel, immediately capsizing it and sending it plummeting into the ocean depths, 9News reports.

It marked the start of an ordeal that saw Okene trapped at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for over 60 hours, before divers staged a miraculous rescue operation.

The catalyst for Harrison’s survival ended up being an unlikely one; he was using the toilet at the time.

The rest of the crew had locked their doors which left them trapped inside their rooms and doomed to go down with the ship, but Harrison’s bathroom break meant he was able to react quickly enough to save his life.

As the jolting ship tossed him from the bathroom he decided to take refuge in the bowels of the ship and began sprinting for the emergency hatch.

Watch Okene's rescue below:

But as he ran down the hall he was soon blasted with a wall of water which forced him into the room's adjoining toilet, creating a tiny pocket of air that allowed the cook precious oxygen to breathe as the boat sank towards its watery grave.

As he swam up toward the ceiling of the cabin he soon realized he had become trapped in a four-foot bubble of air.
Hours went by as Okene sat in the pitch-black, wedged up against a wall.

After treading water and holding his head above water for hours, Okene was eventually able to fashion a small raft out of two mattresses and managed to survive by staying above the rising water in his tiny little chamber.

He continued like this for three days, with no food, no light, no drinkable water, limited oxygen, and no hope of a timely rescue. Yet despite resigning himself to his apparent fate, he never gave up.

"Underwater it was so, so, so, cold," he told 9News following his rescue, explaining how he tried to find a way out several times, tracing his way back to the air pocket with a rope he had found.

"I was struggling to stay alive, wondering how long it (the air pocket) would last me.

"I was thinking about my family, my wife, what would happen, how would she live, how can I get out, thinking about my life as well.

"I was praying a lot."

Several days later, a diving crew was sent by Chevron to recover the bodies of the dead.

After hearing them onboard the ship, Harrison risked the last of his oxygen to bang on the walls and call for help, and was soon greeted by something he thought he’d never see again; light.

The light belonged to the torch of South African diver, Nico van Heerden, and as he made his way through the chamber Okene reached out and tapped his gear, careful not to startle him.

The entire incident was even caught on camera.

"When he came I was just crying," Okene said. "He never knew what I was thinking.

"I was not afraid at that time. I had already decided if it's to be alive or dead, no problem.

"I had been ready to go (but) God heard my prayers."

A long and complicated rescue procedure soon ensued, and the crew equipped him with a special suit that allowed him to start his ascent back into life above water.

Due to the fact he’d spent so long trapped in an air pocket, there was a chance he’d absorbed potentially lethal amounts of nitrogen, and if he was brought straight to the surface, he could die of the bends.

Instead, he was transferred to a diving bell and had to spend two days in a decompression chamber, and although he suffered various trauma responses like nightmares and insatiable hunger during his time there he survived to tell the tale.

"I looked after him the entire three days before he was decompressed and out," said Alex Gibbs, life support technician who aided his recovery.

"I delivered his food, changed his bed linen, gave him medicine, and acted as the go-between from him to doctors, managers, and shoreside office. He was constantly monitored.

"It must have been a huge shock and bewildering experience for him."

He added: "It is a freak occurrence.

"The fact he lived, he found an air pocket, it held for nearly three days, we happened to be in an area with a deep-sea diving boat.

"So many coincidences had to happen to make this possible."

Despite initially vowing never to set foot in the ocean again, following his recovery, Okene eventually faced his fears and became a qualified commercial diver in 2015.

At his graduation ceremony, he was even presented with his diploma by van Heerden himself, the diver who initially saved him.

When asked if he had a message for anyone who finds themselves fighting for survival, Okene said: "The fear alone can kill you.

"I took fear off me, and I believed that 'what will be, will be'.

"Believe in yourself and keep your faith and your mind strong."

Featured image credit: REUTERS / Alamy

Incredible rescue of man who survived days 160ft underwater caught on camera

vt-author-image

By VT

Article saved!Article saved!

At 5AM off the coast of Nigeria on the stormy, rain-swept morning of Sunday, May 26, 2013, one of the most remarkable survival stories of all time occurred onboard a doomed cargo ship.

Harrison Okene was working as a cook onboard a tugboat with a crew of 12 off the Nigerian coast. The crew were on a mission to secure a shipment of fuel from a nearby Chevron oil platform.

But on the night of the disaster, an enormous wave came out of nowhere and smashed into the small vessel, immediately capsizing it and sending it plummeting into the ocean depths, 9News reports.

It marked the start of an ordeal that saw Okene trapped at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for over 60 hours, before divers staged a miraculous rescue operation.

The catalyst for Harrison’s survival ended up being an unlikely one; he was using the toilet at the time.

The rest of the crew had locked their doors which left them trapped inside their rooms and doomed to go down with the ship, but Harrison’s bathroom break meant he was able to react quickly enough to save his life.

As the jolting ship tossed him from the bathroom he decided to take refuge in the bowels of the ship and began sprinting for the emergency hatch.

Watch Okene's rescue below:

But as he ran down the hall he was soon blasted with a wall of water which forced him into the room's adjoining toilet, creating a tiny pocket of air that allowed the cook precious oxygen to breathe as the boat sank towards its watery grave.

As he swam up toward the ceiling of the cabin he soon realized he had become trapped in a four-foot bubble of air.
Hours went by as Okene sat in the pitch-black, wedged up against a wall.

After treading water and holding his head above water for hours, Okene was eventually able to fashion a small raft out of two mattresses and managed to survive by staying above the rising water in his tiny little chamber.

He continued like this for three days, with no food, no light, no drinkable water, limited oxygen, and no hope of a timely rescue. Yet despite resigning himself to his apparent fate, he never gave up.

"Underwater it was so, so, so, cold," he told 9News following his rescue, explaining how he tried to find a way out several times, tracing his way back to the air pocket with a rope he had found.

"I was struggling to stay alive, wondering how long it (the air pocket) would last me.

"I was thinking about my family, my wife, what would happen, how would she live, how can I get out, thinking about my life as well.

"I was praying a lot."

Several days later, a diving crew was sent by Chevron to recover the bodies of the dead.

After hearing them onboard the ship, Harrison risked the last of his oxygen to bang on the walls and call for help, and was soon greeted by something he thought he’d never see again; light.

The light belonged to the torch of South African diver, Nico van Heerden, and as he made his way through the chamber Okene reached out and tapped his gear, careful not to startle him.

The entire incident was even caught on camera.

"When he came I was just crying," Okene said. "He never knew what I was thinking.

"I was not afraid at that time. I had already decided if it's to be alive or dead, no problem.

"I had been ready to go (but) God heard my prayers."

A long and complicated rescue procedure soon ensued, and the crew equipped him with a special suit that allowed him to start his ascent back into life above water.

Due to the fact he’d spent so long trapped in an air pocket, there was a chance he’d absorbed potentially lethal amounts of nitrogen, and if he was brought straight to the surface, he could die of the bends.

Instead, he was transferred to a diving bell and had to spend two days in a decompression chamber, and although he suffered various trauma responses like nightmares and insatiable hunger during his time there he survived to tell the tale.

"I looked after him the entire three days before he was decompressed and out," said Alex Gibbs, life support technician who aided his recovery.

"I delivered his food, changed his bed linen, gave him medicine, and acted as the go-between from him to doctors, managers, and shoreside office. He was constantly monitored.

"It must have been a huge shock and bewildering experience for him."

He added: "It is a freak occurrence.

"The fact he lived, he found an air pocket, it held for nearly three days, we happened to be in an area with a deep-sea diving boat.

"So many coincidences had to happen to make this possible."

Despite initially vowing never to set foot in the ocean again, following his recovery, Okene eventually faced his fears and became a qualified commercial diver in 2015.

At his graduation ceremony, he was even presented with his diploma by van Heerden himself, the diver who initially saved him.

When asked if he had a message for anyone who finds themselves fighting for survival, Okene said: "The fear alone can kill you.

"I took fear off me, and I believed that 'what will be, will be'.

"Believe in yourself and keep your faith and your mind strong."

Featured image credit: REUTERS / Alamy