A man who fell off a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico has been rescued after more than 24 hours in the water.
The passenger aboard the Carnival Valor went missing around 2:30 p.m. local time Wednesday and, in a Thanksgiving holiday miracle, wasn’t pulled out of the water until Thursday evening.
He was found by a US Coast Guard helicopter about 20 miles off Southwest Pass, Louisiana, and was said to be in stable condition despite the ordeal.
Matt Lupoli, a spokesman for the cruise operator, told US media the 28-year-old man had disappeared during a bathroom break, after going to a bar with his sister.
He notified the crew of his absence when he did not return to his room during the night.
Along with the Jayhawk helicopter crew that ended up rescuing him at around 8:30 p.m., the Coast Guard dispatched boats and a separate air team in an Ocean Sentry surveillance aircraft.
They responded after the man was spotted by the crew of a carrier called Crinis, which was operating in the area.
“Unlike anything I’ve been a part of”
Lt. Seth Gross, the search and rescue mission coordinator, said his team was “beyond grateful that this case has concluded with a positive outcome.”
“It took a total team effort by Coast Guard observers, response crews and our professional marine partners operating in the Gulf of Mexico to locate the missing individual and get him to safety,” he added.
“Had it not been for the watchful crew aboard the motor vessel Crinis, this case could have had a much more difficult ending.”
Gross told CNN the rescue mission, which saw an alert sent to all sailors in the 200-mile-long Gulf of Mexico, was “unlike anything I’ve been a part of.”
“I think it kind of blows the norm, the normal, out of the water here, and really just shows that the will to live is something you have to factor into any search and rescue,” she said.
According to CBS News, the man was “responsive but exhibiting hypothermia-like symptoms” when he was found, receiving emergency medical attention at New Orleans Lakefront Airport.
He gave “no clear indication as to why it fell overboard or at what time”.
His family remains aboard the cruise ship, bound for Cozumel in Mexico.