A cheerless story comes to us today, of a fight to stay alive in the Gulf of Mexico for two Texas fishermen. For more than 30 hours, best friends Ken Henderson and Ed Coen treaded water after their boat sank at noon last Thursday, according to the [Associated Press.](Link to story http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_16026/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=amHxa5DK)
Coen, who was a slender man, began shivering almost immediately after the accident in the cold springtime ocean. Both men were wearing their life jackets, which they strapped together to avoid drifting apart. After failing to swim to a gas well nearby, they kept their morale up as best as they could, hoping for rescue.
“We talked about stuff that I’ll never talk about. We discussed things and discussed life. We discussed families. We just tried to keep ourselves occupied,” Henderson told the AP.
After 30 hours in the water, Henderson was forced to make a decision that would save his life, though tragically he was unable to save his friend’s life.
“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, his best friend for 25 years, just before cutting the strap that connected them in the cold waters off the Texas coast.
“I understand,” Coen responded, giving Henderson a last set of directives. “Kiss them babies for me.”
With both men desperately hypothermic and hallucinating, Henderson eventually swam to a natural gas rig, climbed aboard and found a phone to call for help.
Henderson never gave up hope that his friend would survive, but after Henderson was ashore in the Coast Guard dispatch room, a heartbreaking call came across the radio. A fisherman had Coen dead at sea.
“I felt like a part of me had died out there,” Henderson said.
The Dangers Of Cold Water
In many cases, drowning is an immediate threat in cold water emergencies. The shock of entering the frigid water causes the victim to gasp, often sucking in a fatal amount of water as soon as they are immersed. But even a small amount, as little as one ounce of water, can cause a condition known as secondary drowning. This can cause the victim can die 24-72 hours after the water enters their lungs.
Hypothermia is the next hazard after drowning, as water rapidly conducts away body heat, rendering the victim dizzy, disoriented and weak. If the hypothermia continues, hallucinations and other mental issues can arise.
The effect of cold water can vary from person to person, as body weight, body type and mental conditioning all play a role in one’s ability to survive in cold water. It is very likely that Henderson’s body mass and drive to save both himself and his friend were the main factors in his survival.
Always exceed the US Coast Guard’s requirements for flotation devices and signaling equipment in your watercraft, especially in cold weather and on the ocean.
Our best wishes for recovery go out to the Henderson family, and our deepest condolences go to the Coen family for their loss.