It is being called “one of those Thanksgiving miracles.”
On Wednesday, a male passenger and his sister were having drinks on the Carnival Valor cruise ship, sailing from New Orleans to Cozumel, Mexico, when at around 11:00 p.m., he stepped aside to use the restroom.
But the man did not return and was also not found in his room.
His sister reported him missing the next day at approximately noon, which prompted crew officials to blare announcements across the ship requesting the passenger check in with guest services.
After he did not turn himself in, the ship started turning around at around 2:00 p.m. The Carnival crew eventually called the U.S. Coast Guard thirty minutes later to notify them about the missing passenger.
A multi-crew air and sea search mission was immediately launched, extending more than 200 miles across the Gulf of Mexico, according to a Coast Guard official per CNN.
The resources used during the search included “a small boat from Venice, Florida, a helicopter based in New Orleans and airplanes from Clearwater, Florida, and Mobile, Alabama,” the outlet added.
The search intensified over the next few hours, as water temperatures were just hovering over 70 degrees, according to officials.
Then at around 8:25 p.m., crew members on the bulk carrier CRINIS spotted the overboard passenger about 20 miles south of the Southwest Pass of Louisiana, and the MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from New Orleans was deployed to retrieve the man.
Officials said when the passenger was pulled from the water, he was responsive and could walk but showed hypothermia, dehydration, and shock symptoms. The man reportedly did not say how he fell overboard or what time he did.
Rescuers were amazed that he was able to keep himself afloat in the water for an extended period of time. While they do not know how long he was in the water, officials believe he could have been in for over 15 hours.
The man was transported to New Orleans Lakefront Airport, where he was noted to be in stable condition on Friday morning. Officials did not identify the rescued passenger or his sister.
Lt. Seth Gross, a Coast Guard search and rescue coordinater, emphasized the teamwork that made the rescue possible, and commended the crew of the CRINIS for having spotted the missing man in the water, according to CNN. He said the man’s survival illustrates that “the will to live is something that you need to account for in every search-and-rescue case.”
Gross also told CNN that “it was unlike anything I’ve been a part of.”
“The absolute longest that I’ve heard about,” he said. “Just one of those Thanksgiving miracles.”
The Carnival Cruise ship will continue to Mexico before it will make its way back to the U.S. on Monday, the Daily Mail noted.
You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.