Harrison Okene: The Nigerian cook who survived 2 days under seawater in a shipwreck


The story of a Nigerian man by the name of Harrison Okene in 2013 who survived underwater for 60 hours ( a little more than 2 days) trapped 30m (98ft) deep in freezing seawater is a triumph of the human will, a story Okene believes justifies his faith.

Harrison Okene, a 29-year-old cook, was the sole survivor of the Jackson-4, which overturned after being battered by heavy swells in 2013. 11 other crew members died as the vessel sank some 12 miles (20 km) off Nigeria’s mangrove-lined coast.

Telling his story to UK news media The Guardian in 2013, Okene described his feeling when he was submerged along with the boat:

“All around me was just black and noisy. I was crying and calling on Jesus to rescue me, I prayed so hard. I was so hungry and thirsty and cold and I was just praying to see some kind of light.”

According to The Guardian, Okene was a cook on board the Jackson 4. He was one of 12 crew members when the craft capsized 12 miles off the Nigerian coast in May 2013.

“It was around 5 am and I was on the toilet when the vessel just started going down – the speed was so, so fast,” Okene narrated. Scrambling out, he was unable to reach an emergency exit hatch and watched in horror as three crew members were sucked into the churning sea.

According to Okene he had been underwater for almost 60 hours and had lost all hope of surviving when he heard a sound on the deck. It was a team of South African divers scouring the waters on a presumed body recovery operation, They were shocked to hear a faint sound in reply.

As a diver’s light approached, Okene hesitated to swim outside the air pocket because he was scared that the people might not be what he thought and might hurt him. But eventually, he gathered courage and went out “I went to the water and touched the diver.

He himself shivered from fear. So I stepped back and just held my hand in the waters and waved it in front of his camera so they would see the images above deck.”

One of the rescue mission,” Paul MacDonald, an officer on the support vessel took it his Facebook.

“How it wasn’t full of water is anyone’s guess. I would say someone was looking after him.”

Thankfully, the diver returned but thought Okene was also dead but Okene pulled the diver’s hand to the diver’s surprise. The then 29-year-old cook spent the following 48 hours in a decompression chamber.

When he was fit to communicate with people, He was told that he was the only survivor. “They told me all the others had died and I cried because I thought I was the only one who had been trapped in the boat”, He said in an interview with a cracking voice.

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