In the early morning hours of May 26, 2013, the tugboat Jacson-4 was floating on the coast of Nigeria when a rogue wave overturned it. Inside were 12 crew members, each locked inside their respective cabins as a safety measure against pirates who regularly robbed passing boats in the area. Out of the 12 crew members, only one survived the capsized boat — 29-year-old Harrison Okene, who served as a cook in the tugboat (via Medium).
Okene vividly recalled the time the boat capsized in an interview with The Guardian. He said it was approximately 5 a.m. and he was in the bathroom when he felt the boat turn over. “I was on the toilet when the vessel just started going down — the speed was so, so fast,” he said. He immediately made his way out to find the emergency exit and was met with the horrendous sight of three of his fellow crew members being sucked into the swirling waters. The force of the water pushed him into another toilet in the boat, and he quickly felt his way in the darkness, desperate to get out alive. The tugboat eventually settled about 98 feet down the sea in an upside-down position with Okene trapped inside.
Harrison Okene's astonishing survival
Harrison Okene was able to find an air pocket in the capsized boat and use a platform to keep parts of his body above the frigid seawater to avoid freezing to death. At that point, all Okene could do was pray that he would be rescued. “I was so hungry and thirsty and cold, and I was just praying to see some kind of light,” he told The Guardian. It wasn’t until almost 60 hours later when rescuers would find Okene alive in the air pocket of the vessel. He was transported back to land with a diving helmet and diving bell, and he didn’t suffer any dire health issues after his harrowing ordeal.
Paul MacDonald, who was part of the support vessel that came to the rescue, was bewildered at how Okene managed to survive. “How it wasn’t full of water is anyone’s guess. I would say someone was looking after him,” he said. After the incident, Okene went back to work as a cook but said that he won’t go back to the sea because of the traumatic experience he went through.
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