Video: One Guy Saved 600 Passengers When the Captain Abandoned Them

Video: One Guy Saved 600 Passengers When the Captain Abandoned Them

Oceanos captain abandoned

You might think that the times of the Titanic are long gone, but what if we tell you that about 20 years ago there was another ship that almost followed in the steps of the infamous passenger liner?

This time, abandoned by their captain, around 600 passengers would have lost their lives if not for the quick-thinking and courageous cruise ship entertainers.

The Oceanos, built in France and first launched in July 1952, was a Greek-owned cruise ship that traveled along the Marseilles – Madagascar – Mauritius route. On August 3, 1991, after a serious delay due to a bomb threat, it set out from East London, South Africa on its fateful voyage toward Durban.

The captain of the Oceanos was an experienced seaman Yiannis Avranas, who had been sailing the oceans for 30 years, including 20 years as an officer. Even before the journey started, the ship had already started to wear. With holes in its walls, loose hull plates, and missing parts that control the flow of water, it looked pretty neglected.

Nothing was going right since the beginning of the voyage, usually, the ship’s crew would have organized a “sail-away” party with the entertainers and musicians on the deck outside but the sea was incredibly rough, causing the party to take place inside, in the Four Seasons lounge. Even so, most passengers were unwilling to leave their cabins due to the extremely bad weather faced by the ship. 

Soon, things got even worse! 

Several hours into the dinner party, the waiters could hardly balance their trays without dropping something. At one terrifying moment, plates, glasses, and cutlery started to slide off the tables. People couldn’t stand straight any longer, and potted plants decorating the lounge began to fall over. The problem was that, in an attempt to make up for the previous delay, the Oceanos headed into 40-knot winds and 9 m (30 ft) swells. But it turned out to be a fatal mistake!

First of all, the ship’s waste disposal system was still under repair, meaning that several essential parts of the ships were not working. Secondly, the ship wasn’t only stuck in a violent storm, the situation was much more dangerous, because the Oceanos encountered rogue waves, also called monster waves. They’re incredibly large and unexpected; they appear all of a sudden and can wreck even large ships and ocean liners.

So, with these dangerous waves slamming against the ship, its shell plating eventually gave in and burst open. Seawater started to fill the ship’s engine room at lightning speed. Since the rising water could have easily short-circuited the generators, they were immediately switched off. The Oceanos lost power and was rolling adrift on the waves.

Most of the passengers were still unaware of the looming disaster, but their ignorance wasn’t going to last. The ocean water was flooding the ship through the main drainage pipes, which meant that it was uncontrollably spilling out of toilets, showers, and the water disposal system. The ship was sinking slowly but surely.

The main lights went out, replaced by the emergency ones. The ship turned dark, with only public areas dimly lit. You’d probably assume that the crew must have immediately informed the passengers and started the evacuation process, right? 

Not this time; on board the sinking Oceanos, it just didn’t happen.

As soon as the crew realized that the ship was beyond hope and couldn’t be saved, they got ready to abandon it. They didn’t follow the standard procedure of locking the portholes on the lower decks, and they didn’t even raised the alarm!

As a result, the passengers remained in the dark until the water began to flood the lower decks. Those who finally noticed the horrifying situation rushed to the bridge in search of the crew, but discovered that it was unmanned!

A few witnesses later reported that they saw the captain, along with some other crew members, all packed and ready to abandon ship.

Ever heard about the seamen’s rule, which states that the captain is the last person to leave the ship if it’s sinking? What’s more, if he’s unable to evacuate the passengers and his crew, he shouldn’t save his own life even if he can.

Well, in this case the captain and his crew weren’t going to save the day for the passengers. They departed on several lifeboats without looking back. 

Luckily, the ship still had its entertainers. Before the disaster struck, almost all the passengers had gathered in the main lounge to see the 10 PM show. However, they were getting more and more alarmed because something strange was happening on the ship.

Moss Hills performed on the Oceanos as a singer and guitarist. He could tell that the ship was having a problem, but at that time, he hadn’t realized yet how serious the situation was. For the time being, he decided to keep entertaining guests to prevent panic and keep them calm. Since there was no electricity on board, none of the microphones or speakers worked. In the dimness of the emergency lights, the performer played his acoustic guitar and sang along with it.

But the passengers kept asking what was going on in between the songs. Having run out of plausible explanations and any other ways to entertain the nervous people, Hills left to investigate.

Later, Hills said that the captain denied that the ship was sinking, but at the same time, told them to prepare for an evacuation. It sounded strange, and Hills, together with his fellow entertainer Julian Butler, made their way to the “Crew Only” area to find out the real story.

The dark ship was rolling violently; oily stairways were incredibly difficult to climb. But eventually, the duo reached the very bottom of Oceanos. To their surprise, they discovered that the deck was indeed dry. They kept searching for signs of water but found none.

Hills and Butler had nothing to do but to return to the upper deck. As they got there, they saw that several lifeboats had already been lowered, and children and women were getting inside. But to their shock, the entertainers also noticed that senior officers were climbing into the boats as well, and no-one seemed to be in charge of the situation.

Hills got even more suspicious and headed for the lower decks again, this time alone. As soon as he neared the engine room, he heard the sound of raging water. His worst fears were confirmed – the ship was SINKING.

As soon as Hills realized the horror of the situation, as well as the fact that they couldn’t expect any help from the panicking crew, he sprang into action. Together with his wife Tracy, and their colleagues Robin Boltman and Julian Butler, they started to assist the passengers. 

Hills kept broadcasting a Mayday distress call via the radio phone until their cry for help was answered. The South African Air Force and the South African Navy sent 16 rescue helicopters that were to arrive at any moment.

On top of that, the Dutch container ship Nedlloyd Mauritius also responded to the Oceanos’ distress call and rushed to help. Later, its lifeboats played a significant role in evacuating the passengers from the sinking ship.

Meanwhile, Moss Hills organized an orderly evacuation process where children and women were the first to use the remaining lifeboats. Unfortunately, since the ship had already been lying on its right side by that time, the passengers couldn’t use all the boats
that were on board.

Luckily, the helicopters arrived just in time to airlift the 225 people remaining on the ship with the help of safety harnesses. Once again, the entertainers insisted that children and women had to be rescued first.

After that, everyone was taken to a nearby town, around 6 miles (10 km) away. All 571 people who were on board the ship after the crew abandoned it were saved.

Moss and Tracy Hills, as well as Butler and Boltman, were among the last to leave the ship.

Boltman later said that the captain contacted him in the morning from the shore to find out how the evacuation was going. At about 3:30 PM the next day, the Oceanos touched the sand bottom, 300 ft (90 m) below the ocean’s surface.

The last minutes of its sinking were recorded on video and broadcasted by ABC News. Nowadays, the ship’s wreck lies around 3 miles (5 km) away from the shore.

Don’t you think that it is an amazing story of courage and dedication at sea which deserves to be known? While you think about it, watch this amazing video by Bright Side describing how Hills courageously saved almost 600 lives!


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