Harrison Okene, a 29-year-old ship’s cook, was the only known survivor from the boat of 12 men, which capsized on May 26, 20 miles off the coast of Nigeria. The footage shows the moment Mr Okene, who was left fighting to breathe inside a four-foot high bubble of air, reaches out a hand and touches one of the team of divers, letting them know he is still alive. It had been feared that all aboard had perished.
Of the 11 others aboard the tugboat when it sank in rough seas 10 have been found dead. One remains missing, but search operations have since been called off. Mr Okene squeezed into a compartment after the boat sank and settled upside-down. Before closing the cabin door to stop the water coming in, he had seen three dead colleagues in the water. Quick-thinking Mr Okene took two mattresses from the beds and sat on top of them, hoping to stay afloat. He was brought to the surface after 62 hours.
‘I was there in the water in total darkness just thinking it’s the end,’ Mr Okene told Reuters at the time of his rescue. Although he could not see anything he said: ‘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.’
After days soaking in the saltwater parts of his skin began peeling away and he was gasping for water as he could not drink the seawater that he was trapped in. South African divers came down to search for any survivors of the Jacson 4 on May 28 and they were stunned to find Mr Okene still alive.
Paul McDonald, a member of the rescue crew, said at the time: ‘All on board could not believe how cool he was when being rescued. ‘The divers put a diving helmet and harness onto him. It was amazing to be part of this rescue.’ Mr Okene said: ‘I hammered the side of the vessel hoping someone would hear me’. He spent another 60 hours in a decompression chamber where his body pressure was returned to normal. If he had been exposed immediately to the outside air he would have died. Kurt Glaubitz, a Chevron spokesman, said the boat overturned while towing a Chevron oil tanker in the Gulf of Guinea.