Video has surfaced showing the harrowing rescue of a Nigerian sailor, who was stuck underwater for three days after heavy waves sunk the Chevron oil tugboat he was on.
Harrison Okene, the 29-year-old cook of the AHT Jascon 4, gave a South African diving team the shock of a lifetime when he reached out from the dark air pocket he was trapped in and grabbed the hand of a diver.
“It was frightening for everybody,” DCN Diving project manager Tony Walker told CBC News. “For the guy that was trapped because he didn’t know what was happening. It was a shock for the diver while he was down there looking for bodies, and we [in the control room] shot back when the hand grabbed him on the screen.”
Sitting in the cold Atlantic Ocean water in nothing but boxer shorts was beginning to take its toll on Okene’s body. He had no food and drank Coca-Cola, according to the BBC. The salt water also began to peel away the skin on both his body and tongue.
Okene knew he wasn’t alone: despite the darkness, he said he could sense the eerie presence of sealife eating the dead bodies of his crewmates nearby. He was sure he was going to die – until diver Nico Van Heerden’s light illuminated the small air pocket that kept Okene alive.
“They told me all the others had died and I cried because I thought I was the only one who had been trapped in the boat,” Okene told The Guardian.
The AHT Jascon 4 was found 30 metres underwater off Nigeria’s Escravos coast, according to DCN. A crew of 12 were on board; divers recovered 10 bodies and rescued Okene.