The male passenger, 28, whose identity has not been disclosed, was rescued by the US Coast Guard on Thanksgiving Day after going missing for more than 12 hours on the journey from New Orleans to Cozumel, Mexico.
He was last seen at the Carnival Valor’s bar with his sister before he left to use the restroom at around 11pm Wednesday and did not return. His sister waited until noon the next day to report him missing, according to KPLC 7.
The ship was thoroughly searched, but he was nowhere to be found. Crews called the Coast Guard around 2.30pm.
‘We have not been able to confirm when he entered the water, so we’re under the assumption [that] any point from Wednesday on, he could have entered the waterway,’ Lieutenant Seth Gross, of the New Orleans branch, told CNN.
‘He realistically could have been in the water for 15+ hours before we were able to successfully rescue him.’
The ship had backtracked toward New Orleans to support the US Coast Guard, before returning on its path to Cozumel, Mexico, after being released from the search.
The man was spotted by another vessel and picked up by helicopter roughly 20 miles south of the Southwest Pass in Louisiana at 8.25pm.
He was found in a responsive state and taken back to New Orleans for treatment, USCG Petty Officer Ryan Graves told CNN. He is currently said to be in stable condition, according to Gross, and is being treated at a hospital.
Wednesday 11pm: The man is last seen at the bar with his sister
Thursday 12pm: Sister reports him missing to crew staff
12-2.30pm: Crew searches for the man and cannot find him
2.30pm: US Coast Guard received call and Carnival Valor begins backtracking toward New Orleans
Unspecific time: Ship is released from search by the Coast Guard
8.25pm: Spotting by another vessel and rescued by the Coast Guard via helicopter
Total time missing: 21.5 hours
It is unclear how long he spent in the sea. The temperature of the water near New Orleans is about 70 degrees.
Gross said the rescue mission was complicated ‘given the time difference from when he was last seen to when the Coast Guard received notification.’
They sent out an emergency message to all mariners in the Gulf and ‘launched all available resources,’ which included a small boat, helicopter, and airplanes that covered 200 miles of an ‘active search’ area.
‘Time was paramount,’ Gross told CNN.
Carnival provided support to his family while he was missing. His family remains onboard the cruise ship and Gross said he spoke with them.
Throughout his 17-year career, Gross said this mission was ‘unlike anything I’ve been apart of.’
‘I think this blows normalcy out of the water here,’ Gross told the outlet. ‘The will to live is something you have to account for in every search and rescue case.
‘This is one of the absolutely longest I’ve heard about and one of those Thanksgiving miracles.’
Mike Anderson, who was a passenger on the ship, said he saw cruise staff searching for the man and heard announcements about a missing person.
‘[I] noticed security starting to search the boat with a photo of the missing [passenger] in their phones,’ he told CNN.
Carnival told DailyMail.com in a statement on Friday: ‘We greatly appreciate the efforts of all, most especially the US Coast Guard and the mariner who spotted the guest in the water.’
The ship will sail to Yucatán, Mexico – also known as Pregreso – before returning to the States on Monday.
The five-day cruise started in New Orleans before arriving in Cozumel by day three. The next day passengers visit another port before returning to Louisiana.