Conroe man who survived tragic boating trip in which his friend died speaks out

March 28, 2012 8:12:41 PM PDT
A Conroe man survived more than 30 hours in the water, but lost his best friend after their boat sank in the Gulf of Mexico. Now we're hearing the harrowing details in his own words.

We're talking about a day and a half floating in the ocean and drifting more than 54 miles, and now a Conroe man is having to bury his best friend who was more like a brother.

The 2008 Harley Davidson of Ken Henderson's best friend still sits in his driveway from when the two left for an offshore fishing trip. His good buddy, Ed Coen, never returned.

Twelve miles off shore on Thursday, Henderson's 30-foot Scarab begins taking on water, so much so that his bilge pumps can't keep up. They made calls for help on the marine radio. With no answer, they ended up in the ocean.

"Finally, the boat when up like this, kind of threw me off and we are in the water," Henderson said.

Now wearing life jackets, the 60 plus degree Gulf water has the men shivering. The best friends of 24 years were now huddled together, trying to stay warm.

"At one point, he would be on my chest and I would be holding him to keep him out of the water and let the air dry him out a little bit. and then he would rollover and I would get on top of him," said Henderson.

But night falls and the cold ocean takes its toll. Hypothermia sets in and Coen begins to hallucinate.

"And then he said out loud to me, he says, 'I'm going to get up in the cuddy cabin to warm up,' and I said, 'Dude the boat is not here anymore,' and he says, 'That's right, I know,'" Henderson said.

Henderson then makes the tough decision to cut the line connecting their life jackets to swim to a manned rig off in the distance. After 37 hours in the ocean, he makes it. The Coast Guard takes him back to shore where he hears the call of a body found in the water.

"I fell apart. I fell apart. I felt like I let him down, I felt like I let his family down. I let myself down. I went through a point where I felt like jumping right back in the water," said Henderson.

Upon returning from the hospital to Conroe, Henderson can't quite bring himself to move his best friend's bike.

"Actually it puts a smile on my face. That's why I haven't put in my shop yet. It reminds me of Ed and it keeps me going," he said.

Henderson says they talked for hours while treading water and his buddy Coen asked him, among many things, to look after his three daughters, something Henderson plans to do.

Funeral arrangements are now being planned for Coen who is also a veteran.

We worked on this story with our Houston Community Newspaper partners, The Courier of Montgomery County.

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