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Meet Harrison Okene: The Man Who Survived 3 Harrowing Days In A Sunken Ship

29 year Old Harrison Okene Served As A Cook On A Nigerian Tugboat

Some stories touch your heart and make you marvel at the unbelievable things that have happened to people, and this is one of them. In 2013, Harrison Okene was working as a cook on a tugboat off the Nigerian coast. The boat was stabilizing an oil tanker, and had a crew of 12 people on board.

An ocean swell came out of nowhere and slammed into the smaller boat, immediately capsizing it and sending it sinking into the ocean depths. With the boat went the entire crew, sadly locked in their rooms, as they sunk towards a sure death.

A Lucky Coincidence May Have Saved His Life

harrison okene
Image: @itsoofficalharrison_o on Instagram

The rooms of the boat were locked as a security practice, as pirates often robbed the boats in that region. They locked the doors to keep the contents and the passengers safe.

This worked to everyone’s detriment, as the entire crew were asleep in their chambers… except Harrison Okene. It was this exact moment that he’d found himself on the toilet, and was literally sitting there when the boat got hit by the wave. He’d gotten up early and was getting ready to start cooking breakfast for the crew.

The jolting ship tossed him from the bathroom and bounced him around the ship as the boat aggressively sank down. When the vessel finally settled at the bottom of the ocean, Harrison was lucky enough to stumble into an air pocket.

He managed to find two mattresses to stack on top of each other, and stayed above the rising water in his tiny little chamber.

He Spent The Next 60 Hours Floating In An Air Pocket

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Harrison’s ship. Image: @itsoofficalharrison_o on Instagram

It makes me nauseous just thinking about it. If Harrison Okene was claustrophobic, or scared of deep water, chances are he would not have made it. It was because he stayed calm that he was able to survive for 60 hours with no food or water… and almost no air.

The bubble of air that he found surely saved his life, but it would have not lasted for much longer. Given the small area he was in, the rising water, and the elapsed time, the air he was breathing was becoming more and more concentrated with carbon dioxide.

By The Time They Rescued Him, He Was Almost Out Of Time

They have no idea how the air pocket maintained itself for so long.

The diving crew that set out to collect the bodies from the shipwreck got to the boat almost exactly 60 hours after the vessel went down. Imagine the guy who found him? He was swimming through the ship’s interior when a hand reached out and touched him… gently so as to not scare him.

In fact, they captured the entire thing on camera, and this is the footage!

Harrison Okene was calm and cool, and just really freaking grateful that they were there to rescue him. They had to be super careful with him, as he’d been in such deep water for so long. He’d absorbed potentially fatal amounts of nitrogen, and if they brought him suddenly to the surface, he could have easily died from the bends.

The crew equipped him with a special suit and started his ascent back into life above water. He passed out on the way up, but survived to tell his story. He spent two days in a decompression chamber, and suffered various trauma responses like nightmares and insatiable hunger… but he made it.

Where Is Harrison Okene Today? 

harrison okene
Harrison’s ship. Image: @itsoofficalharrison_o on Instagram

Harrison Okene is so grateful to be alive. When he was trapped in the air bubble, he thought that he was the only one who was stuck in the ship deep under the surface of the water. He’d assumed that the rest of the crew survived.

However, it wasn’t until they rescued him and brought him to the surface that they informed him of the bad news: he was the sole survivor. While he was under the water, he thought of his family, his mother, and his wife. He didn’t have access to any of them, but what he did have access to was his faith.

He prayed and prayed, and holy heck somebody was actually there to answer.

After such an ordeal, the trauma naturally stayed around for a long time. Harrison suffered awful nightmares. He’d wake up in the middle of the night feeling like his bed was sinking into the water. Because of this, he swore that he’d never go near the ocean again.

Even though he never wanted to go near the ocean again, Harrison Okene abandoned his fear and became a certified commercial diver in 2015. Here’s the beauty of it: the rescue diver who discovered him at the bottom of the sea was the one to present him with his diploma.

Magic does indeed exist in this world… you just need to look for it. The story of Harrison Okene is beyond inspiring, and also good reason to learn how to stay calm in challenging situations. You can check out his YouTube survival video here, and follow him on Instagram here.

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