Skip to main content

Boat owner tells CNN affiliate of discovering Boston bombing suspect

By CNN Staff
updated 9:46 AM EDT, Wed April 24, 2013
  • David Henneberry was obsessed with how his boat was stowed in the backyard
  • He noticed how protective pads fell to the ground
  • Contrary to police accounts, it wasn't blood that tipped him off to something amiss
  • When he re-inspected his boat, he eventually found the suspect and his trail of blood

(CNN) -- It was a boat owner's obsession with perfection, making sure his "baby" was stowed just right in his backyard, that led him to discover the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Contrary to police reports, David Henneberry said the discovery of blood had nothing to do with the inspection of his boat, the Slip Away II, he told CNN affiliate WCVB. During the inspection, he found a bloodied Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, hiding in the boat, he said.

Henneberry said he had been obsessing over how two pads had fallen out of the shrink-wrap protecting his boat for the winter. He had put the pads under the shrink-wrap to prevent chafing, he told the station. It took two visits tending to the boat before he finally saw Tsarnaev and his trail of blood.

"It was really windy, so I didn't think twice about it," he said of the dislodged pads.

Neighbor photographs shootout with police

See the boat in which Boston suspect hid
Chief: Suspect did fire shots from boat
Neighbor photographs Boston shootout
Boston reclaims Boylston Street

He couldn't address the problem until authorities lifted a "shelter-in-place" order for residents of Watertown, Massachusetts, about 6 p.m. Friday.

Then he went outside to get some air, he told the affiliate.

"I am just going to put the pads back. They were bugging me all day. So I went out in the yard and felt the freedom that everyone in Watertown was feeling. When I pulled the strap, it was a lot looser than it usually is. But again, the wind could have loosened things up," he said.

At this point, he didn't see blood on the exterior tarp, despite what police have said.

"No indication of anything. I know people say I saw blood on the boat, 'He saw blood on the boat.' Not true," he said.

5 key questions in Boston bombing

"I said 'OK, everything is fine.' There are no visible signs of blood outside the boat. I went inside," he said.

But in a fit of obsession, he returned to the boat, climbed a ladder and inspected the Slip Away II again.

"I got three steps up the ladder and rolled the shrink-wrap. I didn't expect to see anything, but I saw blood on the floor of the boat. A good amount of blood," he told the affiliate.

"And I said 'Wow, did I cut myself last time?' I thought. I was in the boat a couple of weeks ago. Then I just look over there, and there is more blood," he continued.

A look at Tamerlan Tsarnaev's past

The blood led to a revelation that would end a two-day manhunt for Tsarnaev.

"And I looked back and forth a couple of times and my eyes went to the engine block and there was a body," he told the station.

He didn't immediately connect the body to Tsarnaev.

"I think maybe (I knew), but I didn't want to think that. It's fast," he said.

He recounted how the person was hidden.

"I see him lying there just like you see on the film (from the State Police helicopter's infrared camera). He was just lying there by the engine block and the floor. I couldn't see his face. I'm glad I didn't see his face. I didn't see his face. He didn't move," he told WCVB.

Responding quickly, Henneberry didn't even remember climbing down the ladder and running to the phone to dial 911.

FBI takes heat over Boston bombing suspect

"I didn't waste any time. I didn't ask him if he wanted a cup of coffee. I was off that ladder. That is all I remember," he told the affiliate.

Police later escorted Henneberry and his wife to a neighbor's home. Police then surrounded the Henneberry's house. Tsarnaev eventually surrendered.

"I am lucky I am alive," Henneberry said. "These other people were killed. Sometimes, I just sit and say, 'Wow.'"

Many on social media want to buy him another boat.

But Henneberry wants nothing of it. He calls himself an "incidental hero."

"It makes me feel wonderful that people that are thinking like that, but it is my boat. People lost lives and lost limbs. I'd rather that (the money) go to the One Fund Boston. To buy me a new boat is a wonderful thing, I don't want that, really. I would wish that they donate it to the One Fund Boston. They lost limbs. I lost a boat," he told the affiliate.

"Slip Away is slipping away. But I say it did its job. It held a bad guy and is going away like a viking ship."

Part of complete coverage on
Boston Marathon Bombings
Survivors of three earlier bombings describe their journeys forward — and offer poignant words for those just one year away from the day that changed their lives.
updated 2:15 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
"United, we will always persevere." That was the message Massachusetts shared on the anniversary of twin bombings that turned last year's Boston Marathon from a celebration into a day of horror.
updated 2:47 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
I'm running it to make a simple statement: Acts of cowardice will not stop me from exercising my rights as an athlete and a human.
updated 3:40 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Many of those whose lives were shattered are still struggling to put the pieces back together. Here are some of the victims, as well as larger funds, who continue to need your support.
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
As April 15 approaches, the fact that we tell time in circles brings us to remember the attack on the Boston Marathon one year ago.
updated 10:47 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
CNN's Bill Weir talks to Carlos Arredondo about helping those injured immediately after the Boston Marathon bombing.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
By running in response to the tragedy, we weren't attempting to negate the irreparable harm done to the people of Boston last year. We wanted to do something, anything, to try to process it.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
All of our assumptions have turned out to be wrong. Here are four things we've learned since then:
updated 4:17 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been frozen in the public mind by four images.
updated 7:22 PM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
Adrianne Haslet-Davis' life as a dancer was shattered last year at the Boston Marathon bombings.
updated 7:40 AM EDT, Mon March 24, 2014
A man who lost both legs in the Boston Marathon attack is engaged to the woman he was waiting for at the finish line.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Wed April 17, 2013
Mistaken identity in the hospital added to her family's grief.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Wed April 24, 2013
The slain MIT cop "was born to be a police officer."
updated 10:37 PM EDT, Thu April 18, 2013
The graduate student from China followed her passion to Boston.
updated 1:10 AM EDT, Wed April 17, 2013
Almost a year ago, 8-year-old Martin Richard wrote four simple words on a sign at school: No more hurting people.
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Wed July 17, 2013
Mery Daniel couldn't wait for Marathon. It was one of the things the aspiring doctor and Haitian immigrant loved most about living in Boston.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Thu May 2, 2013
After twin blasts shook Boston -- killing three and wounding more than 260 others -- investigators sprung into action looking for those responsible.
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Sun April 28, 2013
The black Mercedes SUV sped down Spruce Street going about 70 mph, the driver struggling to maintain control. The vehicle had a busted headlight and flat tire.
Click through our galleries of the Boston Marathon bombing, from perspectives on the attack to the suspects, as well as the manhunt and celebrations in Boston after both suspects were found.