A man who fell from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico has been rescued after more than 24 hours stranded in the water.
The passenger on board Carnival Valor went missing at around 2.30pm local time on Wednesday, and – in a Thanksgiving holiday miracle – was not hoisted 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 a stable condition despite the ordeal.
Matt Lupoli, a spokesperson for the cruise operator, told US media the 28-year-old man had disappeared during a bathroom break, having been at a bar with his sister.
She alerted crew to his absence when he did not return to his room overnight.
Alongside the Jayhawk helicopter crew who ended up rescuing him at around 8.30pm, the Coast Guard dispatched boats and a separate air team on an Ocean Sentry surveillance plane.
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 part of’
Lieutenant Seth Gross, the search and rescue mission coordinator, said his team was “beyond grateful that this case ended with a positive outcome”.
“It took a total team effort from Coast Guard watchstanders, response crews, and our professional maritime partners operating in the Gulf of Mexico to locate the missing individual and get him to safety,” he added.
“If not for the alert crew aboard the motor vessel Crinis, this case could have had a much more difficult ending.”
Lt Gross told CNN that the rescue mission, which saw an alert beamed out to all mariners in the Gulf of Mexico, spanning 200 miles, was “unlike anything I’ve been part of”.
“I think it kind of blows the norm, the normalcy, out of the water here, and really just shows the will to live is something that you need to account for in every search-and-rescue case,” he said.
According to CBS News, the man was “responsive but exhibiting hypothermic-like symptoms” when found, and he received emergency medical treatment at New Orleans Lakefront Airport.
He has given “no clear indication of why he fell overboard or what time”.
His family remain on board the cruise ship, which is bound for Cozumel in Mexico.