By Victor Amadi
THE date was December 29, 2015, and the place – the high sea in Akwa Ibom State. Divers had loaded themselves in a speedboat and went fishing.
But only two of the occupants of the speedboat were experienced divers; the others had little experience. The two experienced divers, having got far away from the shore, kitted themselves and dived. But the inexperienced ones stayed back in the speedboat.
Suddenly, those in the boat sighted a naval gunboat owned by the Joint Task Force fast approaching them. By that time, the two experienced divers – Sunday Eyo and Peter Mengah – were already 40 metres deep in the sea.
The inexperienced divers in the boat started drawing the duo up fast. And that, it was gathered, was not the normal way for divers to come up. In the process, one of the two had a terrible accident.
But for Providence, Mr Sunday Eyo, a 35-year-old diver, would have been dispatched to his early grave by the unexpected based on the accident. But God used a leading oil field maintenance and engineering company based in Akwa Ibom State, Azi Marine Nigeria Limited, to give him a second chance.
On the fateful day, Eyo, who hails from Akwa Ibom State but was born in Limbe, South West Cameroon, and his best friend of 31 years, 36-year-old Mr Peter Mengah, a Cameroonian, who hails from Limbe, went fishing. They went with some inexperienced divers who stayed in the boat while the two friends went underneath the water to catch fish.
But what actually happened on the fateful? Mengah answered: “We went to the sea. But our experienced men, who used to work with us, all travelled to their respective homes for Christmas. My friend, Sunday Eyo and I decided to pick some new inexperienced workers. This crops of youths didn’t understand how to pull us up slowly each time we were in
“Suddenly, they sighted a naval gunboat for the first time, fast approaching us. The gunboat was owned by a Joint Task Force led by the navy, coming to our direction. Peter and I were already 40 metres deep in the sea.
We suddenly realised that our boys had started drawing us up faster, which is not
the normal way for divers to come up. I reasoned that I would have an accident if
I allowed them to draw me out that fast.
“I quickly disengaged my own ropes, followed the normal rules and regulations
required of such moments, and started coming up gradually. But my friend Eyo
followed the ropes with that speed at which he was being pulled up.
“When I came up, I saw Eyo and the air cylinder has already been removed
from his back by the boys who pulled him up. “Immediately I sat down, Eyo waved
at me and said, ‘Pally, I am going.’ Then he fell on the air cylinder and started
shaking like as if he had a convulsion. “Quickly, I removed everything on
his body, held him and put something inside his mouth so that he would not clench his teeth to bite his tongue. His eyes began to turn up while his body swelled. I loosened the flying boat from Anchor, and I asked our driver to go and meet the gunboat for assistance. They were helpful indeed and gave us tips on what to do. We followed their advice.
“My Mercedes Benz car, in which we drove to the place, was parked nearby and I drove my friend home.”
Between January 1 and 7 this year, Eyo was reportedly in coma. He was taken through several stages of first aids and treatment, all to know avail. The rays of hope came when Azi Marine Nigeria Limited agreed to treat him.
The Diving Unit of an international oil company was said to have been contacted for assistance, but they were advised to contact the Dive Superintendent at Azi Marine Nig Limited, Mr. Mfom Akpanam, who also got the permission of the chief executive officer of the company, Isaac Abakam, to attend to Eyo.
Akpanam, who is an experienced dive medic, was said to have visited Eyo in a hospital and advised that he should be treated for gas embolism. He was later transferred from the hospital to the multi million-naira chamber equipment of Azi Marine, where Eyo was resuscitated and treated.
In his testimony, Eyo said: “God didn’t want me to die and so all praises and adorations go to him.”
Eyo has now vowed that the accident he had would not deter him from returning to his noble trade – diving. He stated: “I am a professional and will continue to do my job.”
But he gave thanks to God, the chief executive officer of Azi Marine Nigeria Limited, Elder Isaac Abakam, and everybody that God used to give him a second chance as well as the two hospitals he was initially rushed to for treatment. Eyo and his friend attended the same primary school and technical college in Cameroon. After their education, they opted to be trained as marine divers and they worked briefly in Cameroun before they relocated to Nigeria and settled in Akwa Ibom State.
The duo, who are licensed divers and fishers, have become regular contractors to some organisations and individuals with diver fee or risk allowance of N200,000. They do dive and fish in Bonny, Finima, Escravos, Ibeno, Oron land as well as in Igbokoda and Awoye in Ondo State.