Watch the Incredible Rescue of a Nigerian Sailor Who Had Been Trapped in a Sunken Ship For Three Days

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 4 2013 11:28 AM

"But When He Went to Grab the Hand, the Hand Grabbed Him!": Incredible Footage of a Deep Atlantic Rescue

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

I'm admittedly a few days late to this extraordinary story, but I wanted to wait for official confirmation that this almost too-good-to-be-true video was legit. Thanks to the Associated Press we now know it is, so we're all now free to marvel at the footage of a miraculous underwater rescue from this past May. The AP did the work chasing this down, so I'll let them set the stage:

About 100 feet down, on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, divers had already pulled four bodies out of the sunken tugboat. Then a hand appeared on a TV screen monitoring the recovery. Everyone assumed it was another corpse, and the diver moved toward it.
“But when he went to grab the hand, the hand grabbed him!” Tony Walker, project manager for the Dutch company DCN Diving, said of the rescue in May.
Advertisement

That hand belonged to Harrison Odjegba Okene, the tug's Nigerian cook who had been in the bathroom at the moment that the oil tanker-towing tugboat began to sink in the early morning hours of May 26. The 11 other seaman aboard all perished aboard the boat, but Okene was able to find a small air pocket in one of the cabins that—along with a single bottle of Coke—would keep him alive for the next 72 hours.

A shorter clip of the rescue—complete with some rather strange music—was posted online a few days ago, but the AP got its hands on the full thing, and likewise confirmed the incredible story with Okene and the Netherlands-based diving company that led the rescue. You can read the full story here, but it's the video (embeded above) that has everyone talking. It's impossible to guess which of the two men—the one who believed he was going to die, or the man who thought he was recovering dead bodies–was more surprised when their hands met in the cold waters of the Atlantic.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***