Ken Henderson's Tough Choice: His Buddy or Death

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Last Thursday, the 30-foot Scarab boat that Ken Henderson and Ed Coen were in (while on a fishing trip) unexpectedly sank in Matagorda Bay, Texas.

Recuperating in a Corpus Christi, Texas hospital, Henderson recalled to The Courier that he and Coen were enjoying soft drinks around noon Thursday when Coen suddenly realized the boat was taking on water.

Both engines failed, stranding the two men on a quickly sinking boat. Henderson made two Mayday calls to the Marine Radio but received no response.

He then tried to call 911, but had no cell phone service. At the same time, Coen collected life jackets and anything they could use to float.

When the boat made a violent flip into the air, the men were left in the water with only life jackets, a boat oar, a dock pole and what was left of Coen’s soft drink.

Over the next 35 hours, Henderson and Coen worked to stay alive and signal for help.

Henderson tightened a strap connecting him and his friend so they wouldn’t lose each other: “We would take turns sleeping on each other’s chest, just to get each other out of the cold water. I would float on my back and bring him up, and he would do the same.”

But after a few hours, he saw Coen experiencing hypothermia: “He was a small guy, just 5 feet 5 inches and no more than 145 to 150 pounds, so he didn’t have much insulation on him. The hypothermia set in after a few hours, and he was violently shivering.”

When Coen could no longer swim by Friday afternoon, Henderson untied the strap bonding him to his friend and began to swim toward nearby oil rigs.

Around 2 a.m. on Saturday, Henderson boarded a natural gas rig and took refuge in its galley, rehydrating and washing salt from his body. He called his wife and the Coast Guard, who were notified around 9 a.m. on Saturday that Coen’s body had been found by a local fisherman.


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