herald

Saturday 18 August 2018

'I had to cut my best friend adrift and let him drown after 30 hours in water'

FOR hours after their boat sank, Ken Henderson and Ed Coen treaded water in the Gulf of Mexico, talking about life and death while struggling to survive. For 30 hours, it worked.

Then Henderson was forced to make a decision that would save his life, but not his friend's.

"This is the last-ditch effort, but I'm going to go for help or you're not going to make it," Henderson told Coen, just before cutting the strap that connected them in the deep, cold waters off the Texas coast.

"I understand," Coen responded. "Kiss them babies for me," he told Henderson.

It was Friday, around 4pm, when they parted.

On Thursday the two men were out fishing. Suddenly, Coen noticed the 30ft Scarab was filling with water. Henderson started four bilge pumps. Water sprayed everywhere.

Coen quickly unhooked the boat from one of the many oil rigs in area where they had been fishing. Henderson revved an engine, but it died. Henderson made a mayday call, but got no response. He dialled emergency services on his mobile. There was no signal.

Suddenly, the bow went up. Already wearing life jackets, the two ex-Marines grabbed extra life jackets and other floating items, including a half-full bottle of Diet Coke.

Helpless

After failing to swim to a gas well nearby, the pair prepared for a long wait. Coen worried his life jacket wouldn't hold him up, so Henderson strapped an extra around his friend's neck.

Henderson said: "I just felt helpless sitting there with him."

And so he decided to cut the strap. He eventually reached an unmanned oil rig. He dragged himself on board, and called the Coast Guard.

Two hours later, Henderson was ashore with the Coast Guard when the message came on the radio. A fisherman had found a body in a life jacket.

hnews@herald.ie

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