I felt compelled to share this awesome video (scroll down) showing the actual rescue of Harrison Okene, aged 29, from the wreck of the Jacson 4 tug-boat, which sank 15km off the Nigerian coast. It is perhaps the most amazing diving video that I have ever seen. (scroll down for video)

Jascon 4 rescue diving video

“He’s ALIVE… He’s ALIVE!!!!”

The Jacson 4 tug-boat got into difficulties and sank in bad weather, whilst stabilizing an oil tanker that was filling up at a Chevron platform off the African coast.  It was presumed lost with no survivors.  After 3 days, the commercial diving vessel ‘Lewek Toucan‘ attended the scene and their team began diving operations to recover bodies from the wreck.  The ‘Jacson 4‘ wreck had sunk to a depth of 30m/100ft.

“He’s alive… He’s alive!!!”

On entering the wreck, the recovery diver, Nico van Heerden, is startled to see a hand reach down and grasp him. There is a survivor! Harrison Okene was alive… and had survived in an air-pocket in the submerged wreck for 3 whole days. The commercial team then proceed to extract Harrison from the wreck…

jacson 4 harrison okene rescue diving

The ‘Jacson 4′ tug with Harrison Okene (survivor) inset.

As the ship sunk, Okene was swept along a narrow passageway by surging water into a toilet adjoining a ship’s officers cabin. To his amazement he was still breathing. Wearing only his underpants, he survived around a day in the four foot square toilet, holding onto the overturned washbasin to keep his head out of the water, before building up the courage to open the toilet door and swim into the officer’s bedroom and began pulling off the wall paneling to use as a tiny raft to lift himself out of the freezing water.

“I was there in the water in total darkness just thinking it’s the end. I kept thinking the water was going to fill up the room but it did not..  I was so hungry but mostly so, so thirsty. The salt water took the skin off my tongue,…  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 (exit hatch)… 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.

I was very, very cold and it was black. I couldn’t see anything, but I could perceive the dead bodies of my crew were nearby. I could smell them. The fish came in and began eating the bodies. I could hear the sound. It was horror”

What Okene didn’t know was that his prayers would be answered: a team of divers sent by Chevron and the ship’s owners, West African Ventures, was arriving to search for crew members, presumed then to be dead. The recovery team and dive-support vessel, ‘Lewek Toucan‘, was from a subsea services company DCN Global, which was a technical partner of ADS, a Nigerian diving company, chartered by the Nigerian offshore engineering company West African Ventures.  They were working on a pipeline project when West African Ventures instructed DCN and ADS to call off the pipeline operations and respond to the tugboat accident.

VIDEO: This video is the actual rescue footage from the helmet-cam of the rescuer. IT WILL MAKE YOUR DAY!

The Jascon-4 capsized  due to “heavy ocean swells” while the vessel was “performing towing operations” at a mooring point around 30 kilometres off oil-producing Delta state, off the coast of Escravos, Nigeria.

Harrison’s rescue was complicated by the fact that his body had saturated to the pressures of the environment 30m/90ft beneath the surface and a return to the surface without equalizing the pressure would result in death from the bends. Donning a surface-supplied diving helmet, Mr. Harrison was escorted from the wreck to the safety of a diving support bell, from which it took 60 hours  for him to decompress and ascend to the surface. He completed a further 60 hours of decompression in a chamber.  As of May 31st, Mr. Harrison was recuperating and responding well to treatment beck in Nigeria with his family.

harrison okene rescue diving team jacson 4

Harrison Okene pictured with the rescue diving team from the diving vessel ‘Lewek Toucan’

Former US Navy Salvage Officer Patrick Keenan stated: “The fact this person survived is incredible. After spending two days at 30 meters of depth, he had become saturated, meaning his body had absorbed all the pressurized gases and equalized with the surrounding water pressure. Bringing him to surface from that depth, and after having been saturated at 3 or 4 atmospheres, could easily have killed him”.

Paul McDonald, a Dynamic Positioning Officers on board the Dive Support Vessel, added; “All on board could not believe how cool he was when being rescued. The divers put a diving helmet and harness onto him and he followed the diver to the bell were he was then taken to deck level and kept in the chamber and decompressed for 2 days. It was amazing to be part of this rescue and my sympathy is with the families who lost there love ones.”

Statement from West African Ventures:

Further to previous reports made on the incident of our anchor handling tug Jascon 4, which sunk while on static tow of a tanker 15 Nm offshore Escravos, Nigeria on Sunday 26 report that divers have found and identified one survivor, Mr. Okene Harrison.

He was the Vessel’s cook and of Nigerian nationality.

Mr. Harrison was medically examined and he is currently in a stable condition and under treatment on board the diving support vessel.

Jan Messchendorp, General Manager of West African Ventures commented: “We are very grateful for the survival of Mr. Harrison. We express our sincere gratitude to our divers for their outstanding performance and their inexhaustible efforts made so far. Our thoughts continue to be with the families of the rest of the crew”.

The search and rescue operation will continue until all crew members are accounted for and we are in the meantime offering all support possible to the families of the missing crew members. We have also commenced a full investigation into the cause of the incident

Harrison Okene was the only survivor of the ship wreck.  The bodies of 10 crew members were also recovered by the rescue diving team. The body of the 12th crew member remains missing.


 

More information:

Ship’s cook survived for TWO DAYS trapped underneath sinking tugboat as ten of his crewmates perished in Atlantic Ocean tragedy

Shipwreckology: Miracle Mariner – Okene Harrison

gCaptain: Tugboat Jascon 4 Sinks in Heavy Weather Off Nigeria, Fate of Crew Uncertain [UPDATE]

Upstream-  The International Oil and Gas Newspaper: One alive after Jascon 4 capsizing

gCaptain: Stuck in a Shipwreck: Jascon 4 Cook Discusses Unlikely Survival

gCaptain: Miracle at Sea: Sailor Survives After Spending 2 Days Inside Sunken Ship

Cape divers’ dramatic deep-sea rescue (comments from the actual rescue diver, Nico van Heerden)

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