In June of this year, the tragic, yet amazing story of Harrison Okene’s survival in a capsized tugboat that sank off the coast of Nigeria stunned the world. Trapped in a 4ft sq. air pocket 100ft underwater in freezing temperatures, Okene survived on no food and some cans of Coca Cola for almost three days. All of the 11 other crew members sadly died.
A South African diving team on a body recovery mission sent Nico Van Heerden down to the vessel, where he discovered Okene sitting in his underwear in a room on the main deck of the ship. The footage of the incredible rescue has now surfaced, and it’s absolutely riveting. It isn’t really clear what is happening at the beginning of the video, but you should really watch every second. As the camera cuts in, we hear a discussion between the supervisor Colby Werrett and Van Heerden as they try to navigate through the sunken ship. A few minutes in (and I’m not revealing the exact time), a solitary hand appears and grabs Van Heerden. “There’s someone alive!” shouts Van Heerden. “He’s alive! He’s alive!” chimes in Werrett. “Ok, keep him there, keep him there. Just hold him there. Keep him there. Fucking hell, I don’t know what we are going to do now”.
Other divers then joined Van Heerden and Okene, bringing supplies and diving gear so that Okene could get back to the surface. Werrett coaxed the shaken and extremely frightened Okene through the ordeal every step of the way. “Ok, Harrison, My name is Colby,” said Werrett over the radio. “And I’m going to bring you home, OK?”
“What is, what is your rank?” he continued.
“I’m the cook. I’m the cook” replied Okene.
“They always survive,” said Werrett, possibly referencing Charles Joughlin, the cook who survived an exceptionally long time in the freezing water after the Titanic sank.
Okene was then led to a diving bell and taken to the surface. Given he had taken in a potentially lethal dose of nitrogen, which would cause a heart attack back on land, doctors monitored Okene for two days in a decompression chamber until he was judged fit enough to go home. Normally, divers would spend no more than 20 minutes at those depths, making Okene’s story all the more amazing.
“They told me all the others had died,” said Okene after his rescue. “And I cried because I thought I was the only one who had been trapped in the boat,”
Check out the astonishing footage below:
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.