Miracle Shipwreck Survivor Nearly Missed Rescuer

Nigerian had to swim out of his air pocket twice to get diver's attention
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 11, 2013 3:45 PM CST
Miracle Shipwreck Survivor Nearly Missed Rescuer
Harrison Odjegba Okene, during an interview with the Associated Press, in Warri, Nigeria.   (Lekan Oyekanmi)

He had survived three days in an upside down tugboat at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, and then he saw lights in the water. A diver was coming. Rescue seemed imminent for Harrison Odjegba Okene. But then the lights disappeared. Desperate, Okene swam through pitch-dark waters in the sunken boat to grab the diver. Okene couldn't find him and, with the air in his lungs giving out, he swam back to the cabin that held his precious, but dwindling, pocket of air. In an interview with the Associated Press, Okene described the ordeal and his miraculous rescue that was videotaped and which went viral after it was put on the Internet this month.

When the diver returned, Okene had to swim again to reach him, and still the diver did not see him. "So I tapped him at the back of his neck, so he was afraid." When the diver saw his hand, he said, "Corpse, corpse, a corpse," into his microphone, reporting up to the rescue vessel. "When he brought his hand close to me, I pulled on his hand," Okene said. "He's alive! He's alive! He's alive!" Okene remembers hearing. Okene described a surreal scene after the diver emerged into the air pocket. "I knew when he gave me water he was observing me (to see) if I'm really human, because he was afraid." After all, divers had found four corpses before Okene got their attention. The rescuee, meanwhile, vows that he's done with the sea for good: Okene's new job as a cook is on land. (Read more Harrison Okene stories.)

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