Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – In the early morning hours after Carnival of Valor departs from New Orleans on Thanksgiving night, a brother and sister are leaving for a proper getaway: They head to a bar on the ship.
As expected, the man at one point moved away to use the bathroom.
But he didn’t come back.
The hours have passed.
He wasn’t in his luxurious bedroom.
The 28-year-old is missing.
What happened next baffled at least one veteran sailor who said, after hours of hindsight, that the astounding result was unlike anything he’d seen before—no less than “one of the miracles of Thanksgiving.”
Search begins by air and sea
It was about 11 p.m. when his brother left, Carnival spokesperson Matt Lupoli told CNN in a statement Thursday.
The statement said she was reported missing the following afternoon – Thanksgiving. Officials did not specify which.
Advertisements were repeated across the ship for the missing passenger to check in to customer services, passenger Mike Anderson told CNN Thursday, and “people noticed that security started searching the boat with a picture of the missing passenger on their phone.”
At about 2 p.m., he said, a final registration request was issued.
Anderson said passengers have been told their arrival at their port of call in Cozumel, Mexico, will be delayed. One of the ship’s ponds dried up, his wife, Whitney Gaines, said, but the couple said no official announcement has been made regarding what happened.
Anderson said the ship then turned around.
“The Carnival of Valor has been rerouted to support search and rescue operations,” Lupoli explained.
Then around 2:30 p.m., the Coast Guard received a call from the ship, Coast Guard Lt. Philip Vanderwit said in a statement.
Missing cruise passenger.
He said he soon began searching for the man with multiple crews – both by air and by sea -.
200 mile area and mission critical
The US Coast Guard Search and Rescue Coordinator, Lt. Seth Gross, told CNN Friday morning that an alert has been issued to all sailors in the Gulf and that the Coast Guard has “released all available resources.”
That includes a small boat from Venice, Florida, a helicopter based in New Orleans, and planes from Clearwater, Florida, and Mobile, Alabama, he said.
The search extended more than 200 miles into the Gulf, Gross said, adding that the water temperature there Thursday night was just over 70 degrees — and a little colder in the Mississippi River.
“We knew that contact with sailors in the Gulf of Mexico would be critical,” Gross said, given the time between the man’s last sighting and the time the Coast Guard was alerted.
The task intensified.
About 20 miles south of Southwest Pass, Louisiana, the crew of the bulk carrier Kernis was surveying the waters, the Coast Guard said in a news release Friday.
Then around 8:25 p.m., They discovered something.
“Unlike anything I’ve ever been involved in.”
The crew of an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from the New Orleans Coast Guard flew to the site and “loaded the man aboard,” Vander Witt said.
US Coast Guard officer Ryan Graves said he was responsive.
“He was able to identify his name and confirm that he was the one who fell into the sea,” Gross told CNN’s Boris Sanchez on Friday afternoon. “He was showing signs of hypothermia, shock, and dehydration,” but he could walk and communicate.
He added that he “didn’t really give a clear indication of why he fell into the sea or when in particular.”
“The fact that he was able to stay afloat and above the surface of the water for such an extended period of time is just something that cannot be taken for granted and certainly something that will stay with me forever,” said Gross. .
Rescuers couldn’t say exactly how long he had been in the water, Gross told CNN This Morning — but it could have been more than 15 hours.
If it’s that long, he said, it’s “the longest I’ve ever heard of it—and one of the miracles of Thanksgiving.”
Of his 17-year career, Gross said, “This case is unlike any I’ve been involved in.” I think it kind of reaches the norm, the normal state, out of the water here, and really shows that the will to live is something that you have to consider in every search and rescue situation. . »
“Without the alert crew on board the Krenis, this case could have ended much more difficultly,” he said in the statement. “It took the effort of an entire team of Coast Guard surveillance and response teams and our professional maritime partners operating in the Gulf of Mexico to locate the missing person and bring him to safety.”
Graves said the rescued man was taken to emergency medical personnel waiting at New Orleans Lakefront Airport.
Gross said he was being evaluated at the hospital and was made aware of the Coast Guard on Friday night.
Back at the carnival, Anderson said an announcement made Thursday night through the public address system informed guests of the incident of a person falling overboard.
However, the ship was freed from the search, and Anderson remembered what he had heard and sailed back to Cozumel.