Man stuns rescue team as he is found alive after two days 'at bottom of the sea'


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A Nigerian cook stunned his rescuers after he was found alive “at the bottom of the sea” more than two days after the boat he was working on sunk in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Harrison Okene was the only survivor of a 12-man crew after the tugboat Jascon-4 capsised off the coast of Nigeria on May 26, 2013. The recovery expedition turned into a rescue mission after divers discovered Okene alive inside the toilet of the officers’ cabins, where a pocket of breathable air had formed when the boat capsised.

Nico van Heerden, who located and rescued Okene from the shipwreck, said: “It was very unexpected and a total shock to find someone alive after the vessel sank days before.

“He was not the first person we came across, though. Before we found him, we found and recovered the bodies of three of his colleagues that perished during the incident. Very tragic indeed.”

Van Heerden told Newsweek: “Vessels do sink and people die, but to find someone alive after so long does not happen. I’ve never heard of it happening before.”

Okene had been asleep in his cabin when a large wave capsised the tugboat miles away from its destination, an oil tanker 19 miles off the west coast of Nigeria.

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Okene said: “Before we knew it, we were sinking.

“We had been sailing for many years, we knew the sea, and we had never had any issue before.”

The cook attempted to find a way out of the cabin area but found many of the doors on his path were shut to prevent pirates from entering.

He ultimately found shelter inside a toilet in the officers’ cabins but was trapped inside as water poured into the boat and sunk it.

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Life support technician Alex Gibbs, who was part of the recovery mission, said Okene had been nearly out of time when he was found in the ship’s toilets.

He noted footage of the rescue suggested the buildup of CO2 in the cabin had begun to affect the Nigerian cook, with oxygen quickly running out.

Gibbs said: “Contrary to popular belief, when people are trapped in confined spaces it is not the oxygen running out that will kill you, it is your own exhaled breath causing a build-up of CO2.

“By the time he had been found, this was at a clearly high level. You can see him panting in the video and his slightly glazed eyes caused by this.”

Okene initially swore never to go near the ocean but in 2015 he received his certification as a commercial diver.

Nico van Heerden, who had found him at the bottom of the Atlantic two years earlier, presented him with his diploma.



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