Harrison Okene’s story of surviving in a capsized boat at the bottom of the ocean drew headlines in 2013.
He spent three days in an air bubble, not knowing if he would be rescued, while fish nibbled on him.
Now, he tells the Guardian, he has retrained to dive even deeper.
A man who made headlines for his harrowing story of surviving three days inside a capsized boat at the bottom of the ocean has retrained as a diver.
The story of how Harrison Okene became the lone survivor of the overturned Jascon-4 tugboat in May 2013 was widely reported around the world.
Working as a ship’s cook off the coast of Nigeria at the age of 29, Okene was in the bathroom when a wave hit his boat, overturning it and sending it 100 feet below the surface.
After struggling to open a jammed door while water filled the vessel, Okene eventually settled in an air pocket.
In order to survive, Okene drew on reserves of ingenuity and faith, he told The Guardian in a recent interview.
He had torches and the meager supplies of food and cola that he managed to gather, he told the outlet.
In the water around him, crayfish nibbled at his skin, he said. He stayed down there, sitting on a small improvised raft, for nearly three days.
“I tried to kill the fear in front of me,” he said. “Because one thing that can kill you fast is fear. That panic that comes at you, it kills you before your real death comes. Because the moment you start panicking, you use too much oxygen.”
According to Eric Hexdall, a specialist in diving medicine at Duke University, the volume of air he was sitting in would have given him roughly 56 hours, National Geographic reported soon after the incident.
Bodycam footage of the rescue shared by the Associated Press shows the dramatic moment that divers found Okene.
It shows a pale, floating hand that the diver initially assumed belonged to a dead body. “We found one, yeah,” the diver says.
But as the hand grips his own, the diver says: “He’s alive! He’s alive!”
The camera, which was submerged, comes above water level to reveal Okene sitting in a pocket of air, surrounded by debris. “Hold him there, just keep him there — reassure him, just pat him on the shoulder,” the diver says.
After the rescue, Okene paradoxically found himself still drawn to the ocean, he told The Guardian. For him, the water had always been “a very peaceful place.”
The incident proved to be a turning point, he told the outlet.
In 2015, he decided to retrain as a diver. “I have faced a lot of my fears in my life, and I decided to face this once and for all,” he said.
Okene now makes underwater repairs on oil and gas facilities, and can dive to a maximum depth of 165 feet, the outlet reported, far deeper than the site of the shipwreck that almost claimed his life.
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