A man who fell from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico has been rescued after being stranded in the water for more than 24 hours.
Passengers on the Carnival Valor disappeared around 2:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday, miraculously over the Thanksgiving holiday, and were not brought ashore until Thursday night.
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter spotted him about 20 miles from the Southwest Pass in Louisiana, and he was said to be in stable condition despite his ordeal.
Matt Lupoli, a spokesman for the cruise operator, told US media that the 28-year-old disappeared during a bathroom break while he was at a bar with his sister.
When he doesn’t return to his room overnight, she alerts the crew of his absence.
In addition to the Jayhawk helicopter crew that ultimately rescued him around 8:30 p.m., the Coast Guard dispatched ships and a separate Air Force team aboard an Ocean Sentinel reconnaissance plane.
Crew members of an aircraft carrier called Crinis operating in the area responded after spotting the man.
‘Unlike anything I’ve been involved with’
Search and rescue mission coordinator Lieutenant Seth Gross said his team was “very grateful that this case ended on a positive note”.
He added: “Coast Guard duty officers, responders and our dedicated maritime partners operating in the Gulf of Mexico worked together to locate the missing person and bring him to safety.”
“If it weren’t for the vigilant crew on board the motor vessel Crinis, this case could have ended much more difficultly.”
Lieutenant Gross told CNN that the rescue mission, which sent an alert to all sailors in the Gulf of Mexico and spanned 200 miles, was “unlike anything I’ve been involved with.”
“I think it’s a bit of a violation of the norm, the norm, to come out of the water here and really just show that the will to survive is something that you need to consider in every search and rescue case,” he said.
The man, who was found “responsive but exhibiting symptoms of hypothermia,” received emergency medical attention at New Orleans Lakefront Airport, CBS News reported.
He “did not specify why or when he fell into the water”.
His family is still on a cruise ship bound for Cozumel, Mexico.