Nigerian Survivor Almost Missed Rescue Diver

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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,” he told the AP last Thursday.

The diver first used hot water to warm him up, then attached him to an oxygen mask. Once saved from sunken boat, he was put into a decompression chamber for 60 hours before he could safely return to the surface.

Until his rescue, Okene believed his colleagues must have escaped. The tug was one of three towing a Chevron oil tanker in Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta waters, but on May 26 there was a sudden lurch and it keeled over.

“I heard people shouting, I felt the vessel going down, going down, I heard a voice saying ‘Is this vessel sinking or what?’ … I was in the WC (toilet) and the WC fell on my head, things started falling on my head … My colleagues were shouting ‘God help me, God help me, God help me.’ Then after a while I never heard from them (again).”

When recounting the rescue at his local church, the pastor asked him if he had used black magic to survive.

“I was so surprised! How could a man of God be saying this?” Okene said, his voice rising in disbelief.

He didn’t go to the funerals of his colleagues because he feared their families’ reactions — Nigerians being generally very religious but also superstitious.

“I couldn’t go because I didn’t know what the family will say, thinking ‘Why is he the only one to survive,’” said Okene.

It’s a question that has shaken his steadfast faith. “Every week I ask (God) ‘Why only me? Why did my colleagues have to die?’”

His wife Akpovona Okene, 27, said he still suffers nightmares. “When he is sleeping, he has that shock, he will just wake up in the night saying ‘Honey see, the bed is sinking, we are in the sea.”

Okene said he made a pact with God when he was at the bottom of the ocean: “When I was under the water I told God: If you rescue me, I will never go back to the sea again, never.”

(Photo: AP)

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