Cruise Passenger Found in Gulf Was Seconds From Death

'The survivor had about 30 seconds to a minute left'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2022 12:15 PM CST
Updated Nov 30, 2022 9:36 AM CST
Cruise Passenger Vanishes, Turns Up Alive in Gulf Next Day
The Carnival cruise ship Valor heads up the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 8, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic.   (David Grunfeld,, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate via AP)
UPDATE Nov 30, 2022 9:36 AM CST

One of the US Coast Guard officers who helped rescue the Carnival cruise ship passenger who went overboard last Wednesday night says the 28-year-old was moments from death when he was pulled from the water. Richard Hoefle tells CBS News he estimates "the survivor had about 30 seconds to a minute left before we would have lost him," noting the passenger went overboard with nothing to hold on to, forcing him to tread water until the next evening. "He just had to do anything that he could with what he had, which was nothing," said Hoefle. The Coast Guard was called by the crew of a bulk carrier who sighted the man; he was hospitalized with hypothermia. See video of the rescue here.

Nov 25, 2022 12:15 PM CST

A man was drinking with his sister at a bar aboard Carnival's Valor cruise ship following its departure from New Orleans on Wednesday when he stepped away to use the bathroom around 11pm. He never returned. His sister reported his disappearance to crew members around noon Thursday, some 13 hours after she'd last seen him. For more than three hours, crew members search the ship for the missing man, to no avail. That's when they assumed the worst. If the man wasn't on the ship, he must have fallen off. What happened next has been dubbed a "Thanksgiving miracle," per CNN.

Alerted to the disappearance around 2:30pm, the Coast Guard "launched all available resources," including a New Orleans-based helicopter and planes from Florida and Alabama, to search more than 200 miles across the Gulf of Mexico, Lt. Seth Gross, a search and rescue coordinator, tells CNN. The odds weren't good. Around 8:30pm, however, a report emerged that individuals aboard bulk carrier CRINIS had spotted something floating in the ocean some 20 miles south of the southwesternmost tip of the Mississippi River Delta. It was the missing man, per WGNO. The 28-year-old was not only alive but, amazingly, responsive, despite being in the water for as long as 21 hours.

That would be "the absolute longest that I've heard about—and just one of those Thanksgiving miracles," says Gross. "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." The man was brought aboard the helicopter and transported to a hospital. His current condition is unknown. In a statement, Carnival Cruise Lines expressed its appreciation for "the efforts of all, most especially the US Coast Guard and the mariner who spotted the guest in the water," per WFLA. Valor, which had made a U-turn during the search, continued on to Cozumel, Mexico. (Read more rescue stories.)

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