The Nigerian cook rescued from a capsized tug boat, Harrison Okene, told newsmen about how people, including a local parish priest, believed he must have survived for three days underwater with the aid of black magic.
“I was so surprised! How could a man of God be saying this?” Okene told newsmen from The Associated Press in his first interview after the dramatic rescue.
He explained further that he did not go to his colleagues’ funerals because he was afraid of their families’ reaction to the fact that he survived and their relatives died in the same accident.
“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.
“Every week I ask (God) ‘Why only me? Why did my colleagues have to die?”
He was kept alive thanks to an air pocket formed when the tugboat capsized.
His rescuers from the Dutch company DCN Diving, were looking only for bodies and already had recovered four corpses when they came upon Okene.
Okene was rescued in May by a South African scuba diving team on a mission to recover bodies from the sunken Jascon 4 when a hand reached out to him while he was searching the tugboat.
The voice of rescue co-ordinator Colby Werrett could be heard, shouting: “He’s alive, he’s alive!”
In the footage of the rescue mission released on youtube, Okene, could be seen sitting in his underwear in the corner of a room.
He reportedly survived for almost three days with no food and a few cans of fizzy drink, trapped 30 metres under the sea.
All his colleagues, 11 of them, had died when the boat capsized and sank off the Nigerian coast.
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.”