The Miraculous Survival of Harrison Okene
Harrison Odjegba Okene, second left, poses with members of the DCN Diving team who saved his life after being trapped for three days underwater – Source – AP Photo/DCN Diving, Dec. 12, 2013 – Via: nypost.com

In the early hours of May 26, 2013, Harrison Okene, a Nigerian cook, found himself in a situation that would test the limits of human endurance and willpower. The tugboat he was working on, the Jascon-4, was assisting an oil tanker off the coast of Nigeria when it suddenly capsized due to rough seas. As the vessel flipped over and began to sink rapidly, panic ensued among the crew members. Amidst the chaos, Harrison was thrown into a small bathroom where he managed to close the door just in time.

As the tugboat descended into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, Harrison found himself trapped in total darkness. The water pressure outside was immense, and he could hear the creaking and groaning of the metal hull as it settled on the seabed, nearly 100 feet below the surface. In those first moments of terror, Harrison’s mind raced with thoughts of his family and his own mortality. He had no idea if anyone else had survived or if rescue would ever come.

Miraculously, Harrison discovered that an air pocket had formed in the bathroom where he was trapped. This small bubble of life-sustaining air became his sanctuary for what would be three harrowing days. With no food or fresh water and only his faith to sustain him, Harrison clung to hope. He recited prayers from memory and sang hymns to keep his spirits up. The darkness was absolute; he couldn’t see his hand in front of his face. The cold water lapped at his legs as he perched on a platform above it, trying to stay as dry as possible.

Time seemed to stretch endlessly in that underwater tomb. Harrison had no way of knowing how long he had been there or if anyone was even searching for him. His body began to weaken from dehydration and lack of nourishment, but his resolve remained strong. He thought about his wife and how much he wanted to see her again. He thought about his colleagues and hoped they had somehow made it out alive.

Meanwhile, rescue efforts were underway on the surface. The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) had launched a search operation for survivors. Divers from a South African company called DCN Diving were brought in to assist with the recovery mission. They were tasked with retrieving bodies from what they believed was a sunken graveyard.

On May 28th, three days after the Jascon-4 capsized, divers entered the wreckage with cameras attached to their helmets to document their grim task. As they navigated through the twisted corridors of the sunken vessel, they were shocked when a hand suddenly reached out from the darkness and grabbed one of them. It was Harrison Okene.

The diver who first encountered Harrison could hardly believe what he was seeing—a man alive in an air pocket at such depths after so many days underwater. The team quickly devised a plan to bring him safely to the surface without causing decompression sickness (the bends), which can be fatal if not managed properly.

Harrison was fitted with an oxygen mask and guided through a series of decompression stops as they ascended slowly towards daylight. When he finally emerged from the water into fresh air for the first time in three days, it felt like being reborn.

The news of Harrison’s miraculous survival spread quickly around the world. His story became one of hope and resilience—a testament to human endurance against seemingly insurmountable odds. Experts marveled at how he managed to survive so long without food or water while trapped underwater.

Harrison’s ordeal left him with lasting memories and a renewed appreciation for life itself. He returned home to his wife with whom he shared an emotional reunion filled with tears and gratitude.

In interviews following his rescue, Harrison often spoke about how faith played a crucial role in keeping him alive during those dark days beneath the ocean’s surface—how prayer gave him strength when everything else seemed lost.

Today, the story of Harrison Okene serves as an inspiration not only because it showcases incredible survival skills but also because it highlights humanity’s unyielding spirit even when faced with dire circumstances beyond our control.

His experience reminds us all that sometimes miracles do happen—and that hope can be found even in places where light cannot reach.

Don Leith

By Don Leith

Retired from the real world. A love of research left over from my days on the debate team in college long ago led me to work on this website. Granted, not all these stories are "fun" or even "trivial" But they all are either weird, unusual or even extraordinary. Working on this website is "fun" in any case. Hope you enjoy it!