Dramatic footage captured by the US Coast Guard shows the moment they rescued a cruise passenger who had been floating alone for over 15 hours in the Gulf of Mexico after he fell overboard.
The 28-year-old man was found 20 miles south of Louisiana’s Southwest Pass at about 8:25 p.m. Thursday night treading water after his sister reported him missing from a Cozumel, Mexico-bound Carnival Cruise ship.
He was spotted by crews aboard the bulk carrier Crinis, according to USCG, who then called in a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for the rescue.
The pulse-pounding clip shows the desperate man frantically waving his arms toward the chopper as he struggles to hold his head above the waves, surrounded by complete darkness.
The grainy black and white clip appears to show a USCG member descending from the chopper into the water to hoist the man up to safety. Members of the rescue team can be heard speaking to each other, mostly inaudibly, over the radio.
“He’s halfway up,” one guardsman says as an illuminated figure approaches the aircraft via a rope.
This missing man, who has yet to be identified, was at Carnival Valor’s bar at 11 p.m. Wednesday night with his sister when he took a bathroom break and never came back, CNN reported.
The sister didn’t report him missing to cruise officials until the following afternoon, forcing the cruise liner to retrace its path back to New Orleans.
The Coast Guard was notified around 2:30 p.m. and immediately launched a search, scouring 200 miles of open ocean.
They located him about 6 hours later in 70-degree water, rescuers told the local station KPLC TV.
After treading water for more than 15 hours, the passenger showed signs of hypothermia, shock and dehydration. He was transported to a New Orleans hospital, where Coast Guard officials said he is in stable condition.
The man told rescuers he wasn’t sure how he’d fallen overboard but confirmed he’d been on the cruise ship. It’s not exactly clear where or when he fell in.
Lt. Seth Gross of the US Coast Guard, referred to the rescue as “one of those Thanksgiving miracles,” adding that the man was able to survive as long as anyone he has ever heard about.
“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 told CNN.