By Luchae Gie — adapted from a report in CBC News
Reports emerged this week of a Nigerian cook, who survived for more than three days in a sunken boat at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean before he was rescued by South African divers in what he believes was an act of divine deliverance.
On May 6, Harrison Odjegba Okene, 29, was aboard the Jascon-4 tugboat along with 15 other crew members when it reeled over in the early hours of the morning due to heavy Atlantic swells, just off the coast of Nigeria. Since it was standard procedure to lock their cabin doors at night because of piracy risks, the overturned tugboat had trapped 14 of its members in their cabins, thus making it impossible for them to escape the rising waters. Okene has always been an early riser and was in the toilet when the tug gave a sudden lurch and then overturned.
“I was dazed and everywhere was dark as I was thrown from one end of the small cubicle to another,” Okene said in an exclusive interview after his rescue with Nigeria’s Nation newspaper. Because the tugboat had sunken 30 meters under water, rescuers believed the entire crew to be dead and were searching for bodies when they stumbled upon a very much alive Okene in a cabin of the tugboat.
Okene had managed to find an air pocket in a cabin and survived for 72 hours on just one bottle of Coke and the recital of the last psalm his wife had sent him via text message. The psalm is sometimes called the “Prayer for Deliverance” and reads “Oh God, by your name, save me…. The Lord sustains my life.” Okene, a member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria, believes that God sustained him as he recited the psalm that promises to “give thanks in your name, Lord.”
According to members of the rescue crew, Okene is incredibly lucky to have survived since the air pocket would not have lasted much longer. He was discovered by two South African rescue crew divers who had originally reported that they had seen a hand and thought that it belonged to another corpse. But when one of the divers went to grab the hand, it grabbed him back!
Crew aboard the rescue boat celebrated when they realized that the impossible had happened: they found a survivor! Even though Okene had made peace with the possible reality of death, he continued to cling on to God. He attributes his survival as a miracle of God and told the Nation: “I started calling on the name of God. I started reminiscing on the verses I read before I slept. I read the Bible from Psalm 54 to 92. My wife had sent me the verses to read that night when she called me before I went to bed.” He believes that it is a miracle that the diver located him due to the size of the boat and the location of the cabin he was in.
“I don’t know what stopped the water from filling that room. I was calling on God. He did it. It was a miracle.” A video of Okene’s rescue was posted on the internet and has since gone viral. DCN Divers whose divers carried out the rescue have also posted a report on their company website.
View video of the rescue: