In the first hours after the Carnival Valor sailed from New Orleans on the eve of Thanksgiving, a brother and sister found a vacation-friendly spot: They headed to an onboard bar.
Predictably, the man at one point moved away to use the restroom.
But he didn’t come back.
The hours have passed.
He was not in his cabin.
The 28-year-old had simply disappeared.
What happened next stunned at least one seasoned sailor who, with hours of hindsight, said the stunning result was unlike anything he had ever seen – and nothing less than a “de those Thanksgiving miracles.
A search is launched by air and sea
It was around 11 p.m. when her brother left, the sister recalled, Carnival spokesman Matt Lupoli told CNN in a statement Thursday.
The next day at noon — Thanksgiving Day — she reported her missing, according to the statement. Officials have not identified either.
Announcements echoed across the ship for the missing passenger to check in with Customer Services Passenger Mike Anderson CNN Thursday, and people “noted that security was starting to search the boat with a photo of the ( passenger) disappeared in their phones”.
At around 2 p.m., a final check-in request was issued, he said.
Passengers were told their arrival time at their port of call in Cozumel, Mexico would be delayed, Anderson said, but no official announcement was released about what happened.
The ship, he said, then turned around.
“Carnival Valor has retraced its route to support search and rescue,” Lupoli explained.
Then around 2:30 p.m., the Coast Guard received a call from the vessel, Coast Guard Lt. Phillip VanderWeit said in a statement.
A cruise ship has gone missing.
Soon a multi-crew search for the man – by air and by sea – was underway, he said.
A 200 mile zone and a critical mission
An alert has been sent to all sailors in the Gulf and the Coast Guard “has launched all available resources,” Lt. Seth Gross, search and rescue coordinator for the USCG, told CNN Friday morning.
That included a small boat from Venice, Florida, a New Orleans-based helicopter and planes from Clearwater, Florida, and Mobile, Alabama, he said.
The search spanned more than 200 miles into the gulf, Gross said, adding that the water temperature there Thursday night was just above 70 degrees — and a little cooler in the Mississippi River. .
Given the time difference between when the man was last seen and when the Coast Guard was alerted, “we knew communication with sailors in the Gulf of Mexico was going to be critical,” said Gross.
The mission intensified.
About 20 miles south of Southwest Pass, Louisiana, the crew of the bulk carrier CRINIS was scanning the water, the Coast Guard said in a news release Friday.
Then, around 8:25 p.m., they spotted something.
“Unlike everything I’ve been a part of”
It was the man.
A New Orleans Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew headed to the spot — and “hoisted the man onto the helicopter,” VanderWeit said.
And he was responsive, said USCG master Ryan Graves.
The 28-year-old had fallen overboard, the agency said later.
Lifeguards were unable to determine how long he was in the water, Gross told ‘CNN This Morning’ – but it could have been more than 15 hours.
If it was that long, it’s “the longest I’ve heard of — and just one of those Thanksgiving miracles,” he said.
In his 17-year career, “this case is unlike anything I’ve been involved in,” Gross said. “I think it kind of blows the norm, the normalcy, out of the water here, and really shows that the will to live is something you have to consider in every search and rescue case.”
“Without the vigilant crew aboard the CRINIS motor vessel, this matter could have had a much more difficult end,” he said in the statement. “It took a total team effort from Coast Guard observers, response teams and our professional maritime partners operating in the Gulf of Mexico to locate the missing individual and bring him to safety.”
The rescued man was transferred to emergency medical personnel on standby at New Orleans Lakefront Airport, Graves said.
He is being evaluated at a hospital, Gross said, and was reported in stable condition Friday morning by the Coast Guard.
Back aboard the Carnival Valor, a Thursday night announcement over the public address system informed guests that there had been a man overboard incident, Anderson said.
The ship, however, had been released from the search, Anderson recalls hearing, and was sailing back to Cozumel again.
The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia company. All rights reserved.