On Sunday the 26th of May 2013 at 0430 HRS, oil rig support tug JASCON 4 capsized and sank in 30 meters of water about 30 kilometers off of the Nigerian coast.
60 hours later the Dive Support Vessel Lewek Toucan arrived to recover the bodies of the 12 man crew.
This is what happened next.
Harrison Okene, 29, was the cook on the Jascon 4, an oil rig tug, when the boat capsized and sunk 100 feet into the ocean off the coast of Nigeria due to heavy ocean swells. He had gotten up to use the bathroom. He was in the Head when the ship capsized. As the ship sunk, Okene was washed out of the Head, down a corridor and wound up in the Officer’s Head.
“Three guys were in front of me and suddenly water rushed in full force,” Okene told Reuters. “I saw the first one, the second one, the third one just washed away. I knew these guys were dead.”
Of the 12 members on the crew, Okene was the only survivor, finding refuge in a small air pocket a ship’s officer’s bathroom.
The lone survivor began pulling paneling from the walls to use as a raft. For three days he drank Coca Cola, unable to eat or drink water, according to the BBC. Even worse, the salt water started to take the skin off his body and tongue.
“I was there in the water in total darkness just thinking it’s the end,” he said. “I kept thinking the water was going to fill up the room but it did not.”
“I prayed about a hundred times. When I was tired, I started calling on the name of God. I was just calling on His name for divine intervention. I started reminiscing on the verses I read before I slept. I read the Bible from Psalm 54 to 92. My wife had sent me the verses to read that night when she called me before I went to bed,” the rescued man told the newspaper.
Despite surviving in pitch-black conditions, Okene said he knew he wasn’t alone.
“I couldn’t see anything, but I could perceive the dead bodies of my crew were nearby,” he said. “I could smell them. The fish came in and began eating the bodies. I could hear the sound. It was horror.”
DCN Diving, a Dutch diving team, performed the rescue. Okene heard them searching the ship and started banging on the hull. He saw lights when the first diver swam by him. He reached out and grabbed the second, Nico Van Heerden. Needless to say Nico was startled. Even the diving supervisor can be heard saying, “Fuck. I don’t know what to do.”
The crew quickly regrouped and devised a plan. A helmet was passed down and Harrison got a crash course on deep sea diving. The divers then lead him out of the vessel and to a diving bell being used by the dive team. After returning to the DSV Lewek Toucan, Okene was placed in a decompression chamber for another 60 hours.
“I will just attribute everything to the grace of God,” the man’s wife, Akpos Okene, said.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him.”