On Thursday, at 2:30pm, the U.S. Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a call from Carnival Valor, which was traveling in the Gulf of Mexico, reporting that a passenger vacationing aboard the cruise ship had gone missing.
According to a CNN report, the 28-year old man, whose name has yet to be released, was drinking at a bar with his sister just before 11pm on Wednesday evening, and after stepping away to use the restroom, he had never returned.
During the next day, Thanksgiving Day, the following occurred:
- 12pm: His sister reported that was he missing.
- Announcements, none official, were made and staff searched the ship using photos of the passenger as reference.
- 2pm: Final check-in request is issued.
- 2:30pm: Carnival Valor makes the call to the Coast Guard.
A coordinated effort consisting of multiple branches of the U.S. Coast Guard, including an Aviation Training Center HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew and Venice 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crew, was put into effect shortly after the missing report was filed.
With no discovery made, Carnival Valor also turned around and began backtracking its route to aid in the search. Furthermore, with a 200-mile zone to cover, the Coast Guard also reached out to all available mariners in the area.
It wasn’t until mid-day on Thursday that crew aboard the bulk carrier CRINIS, transporting a Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-60 Jayhawk team, spotted a person out in the water, some 20 miles out from the Louisiana coastline.
According to reports, the man had fallen overboard the cruise ship and had been miraculously treading in the water for more than 15 hours.
By 8:25 pm, the Jayhawk aircrew had rescued the man, hoisting him from out of the water and aboard a helicopter, where he was then rushed to shores and aided by emergency medical services awaiting at New Orleans Lakefront Airport.
Despite spending over a dozen hours in the water, and surely the shock of a lifetime, the man was able to effectively walk and communicate. As of Friday morning, he is in stable condition.
“We are beyond grateful that this case ended with a positive outcome,” said Lt. Seth Gross, a Sector New Orleans search and rescue mission coordinator. “It took a total team effort from Coast Guard Watchstanders, response crews, and our professional maritime partners operating in the Gulf of Mexico to locate the missing individual and get him to safety. If not for the alert crew aboard the motor vessel CRINIS, this case could have had a much more difficult ending.”
After the man was found, Carnival Valor continued to its original destination, Cozumel, Mexico.