On May 26, 2013, the Jascon 4 tugboat sank to a depth of 30 meters after capsizing off the coast of Nigeria, killing 11 of 12 crewmembers onboard. Miraculously, a saturation diving team with DCN Global exploring the vessel more than two days after its sinking discovered the lone survivor, the vessel’s cook, Mr. Okene Harrison, who was tucked into a tiny air bubble of the ship.
“The fact this person survived is incredible,’ commented former US Navy Salvage Officer Patrick Keenan shortly following the rescue. “After spending two days at 30 meters of depth, he had become saturated, meaning his body had absorbed all the pressurized gases and equalized with the surrounding water pressure. Bringing him to surface from that depth, and after having been saturated at 3 or 4 atmospheres, could easily have killed him.”
Paul McDonald, one of the Dynamic Positioning Officers on board the Dive Support Vessel that was involved with the recovery and rescue mission, explained to gCaptain back in May how Harrison was brought to the surface:
“All on board could not believe how cool he was when being rescued. The divers put a diving helmet and harness onto him and he followed the diver to the bell were he was then taken to deck level and kept in the chamber and decompressed for 2 days. It was amazing to be part of this rescue and my sympathy is with the families who lost there love ones.”
On Sunday 26 May, the tugboat Jascon 4 ran into difficulties whilst engaged in static towing operations, capsized and sank with a crew of 12 on board.
At the time, the tug was approx. 30 km off the coast of Escravos in Nigeria, offering assistance to a tanker being loaded at a Single Mooring System (SBM). The rescue operation involving helicopters and other vessels swung into action almost immediately. At that time, there was no trace of the crew members.
At the moment of the disaster, the Lewek Toucan, chartered by West African Ventures, with a team of DCN divers on board, was 17 hours sailing distance from the accident site. The team was involved in saturation diving work for the Okpoho-Okono 16 pipeline project being undertaken by DCN Diving in collaboration with DCN Global.
As Internet reports about the accident continued to develop, the realisation grew among the divers that there could still be survivors of the Jascon 4, trapped in an air pocket.
Direct contact between the client and the management of DCN Global resulted in the immediate order to head for the accident site and offer all possible assistance in finding the crew members.
The current operation was immediately halted, with divers from DCN actually in saturation at a pressure of 70 metres. The Jascon 4 had however sunk in 30 metre-deep water. The 17 hour sailing time was used to bring the divers to a saturation pressure of 30 metres. Once at the accident site, the divers discovered that the wreck was upside down, and the cook on board the Jascon 4 was indeed trapped in an air pocket in a still intact compartment. After 62 hours trapped in the air pocket, he was brought to the surface safe and well, by the divers from DCN.
This successful rescue raised hope among the DCN team that other live victims would perhaps be found, but further investigations sadly revealed only the remains of 10 deceased crew members.
The 6 divers, the deck crew and technical staff worked uninterrupted. They can be duly proud of the result of their work: 1 person rescued alive, and 10 crew members retrieved from the wreck. Even the retrieval of remains represents an important contribution to the mourning process for the victims’ families.