Two weeks ago I wrote a brief article about the tug boat that sank off the Nigerian coast on 26th May. The twelve crew members were reported missing, 10 bodies were discovered, and it was assumed that all 12 had died.
That is until the ships cook was found alive, stuck inside the sunken tug.
Harrison Okene was the cook on board the Jascon-4 tugboat when it capsized in the rough Atlantic swell about 30km off the Nigerian coast. He managed to survive for more than two days in the upturned vessel, breathing from a four foot bubble of air trapped in a bedroom and adjacent toilet, until two South African divers rescued him.
Okene stated that he “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.”
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At 4.35am on the 26th May Okene explained that he was in the toilet when he realised that the boat was turning over. “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). 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.”
Okene quickly gave up trying to reach the exit, when he was suddenly swept away down a passage by the surging water. He was swept into the toilet of an officers cabin as the vessel crashed into the seabed.
He clung on to the washbasin in order to keep his head above the water, until, about a day later, he built up the courage to try and open the door into the cabin. Here he found more air, and worked at ripping off wall panels to try and form a makeshift raft to keep him out of the freezing water.
“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."
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In the afternoon of the 28th May, Okene said that he “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 forced their way into the ship, and Okene saw the light from their head torches in the passage next to his room. He swam out into the water and tapped the diver. “I was waving my hands and he was shocked.”
The divers gave Okene a suit, helmet, and mask and after spending more than 60 hours in the cold, dark waters trapped under the ship he finally reached the surface.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com