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article imageShip's cook from Nigeria survives in air bubbles of sunken boat

By Marcus Hondro     Jun 14, 2013 in World
When the Jascon-4 tugboat capsized while stabilizing an oil tanker filling up in rough seas at a platform, Harrison O'kene thought he and the other 11 crew members were goners. Mr. O'kene was right about the others but, miraculously, not about himself.
He survived by breathing in a four-foot high air bubble that formed in an officer's room and bathroom of the tug, with the bodies of ship mates floating nearby. The water was cold and he had nothing to eat or drink, holding on to anything he could in the total blackness, convinced that at any moment water would fill the room. The ship's cook, 29, did not think he would survive.
Then two rescue divers from South Africa - believing they were on a body recovery mission - found the scared, starving, thirsty and resilient man after he'd been trapped for over 60 hours, from 4:50 in the morning of May 26 until 19:32 in the evening of May 28. A total of two-and-a-half days, much of the time having to endure hearing fish eat at the flesh of dead companions.
"I could perceive the dead bodies of my crew were nearby," he told Reuters. "I could smell them. The fish came in and began eating the bodies. I could hear the sound. It was horror."
Surviving underwater a "miracle"
Mr. O'kene, back in his home in Warri, Nigeria now, says he is not sure he will return to the sea and that details of the capsizing still haunt him. Friends perished literally right before his eyes and he expected he, too, would join them. The capsizing occurred, with the water rushing in, while he was in nothing but his underwear and in the bathroom.
He rushed out.
"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 (the exit hatch)," O'kene told Reuters. "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."
That the water did not come in and fill the room before divers found him and gave him a tank to make his way safely out of the boat for O'kene, is astonishing. He cannot figure out why he wasn't drowned and continues to think of it.
"When I am at home sometimes it feels like the bed I am sleeping in is sinking. I think I'm still in the sea again. I jump up and I scream," he said. "I don't know what stopped the water from filling that room. I was calling on God. He did it.
"It was a miracle."
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