A passenger on a Carnival cruise ship is lucky to be alive after falling overboard and spending more than 15 hours treading water in the Gulf of Mexico.
Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a call from the Carnival Valor at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day reporting a missing passenger aboard the cruise ship, prompting the launch of several rescue crews to begin searching.
The 28-year-old man was eventually plucked from the water at around 8:25 p.m. Thanksgiving night by a Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew. The Coast Guard said that the aircrew was vectored into the area by the bulk carrier CRINIS after crew members had observed a person in the water.
The Jayhawk aircrew hoisted the man onto the helicopter and transferred him to awaiting emergency medical services at the New Orleans Lakefront Airport.
A spokesperson for the Coast Guard told reporters that the man was last seen Wednesday night and may have been in the water for more than 15 hours, if not more—and without a lifejacket obviously. Media reports say the man was last seen leaving one of the ship’s bars to go to the bathroom on Thanksgiving eve.
“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.”
Jim Walker, a maritime lawyer specializing in cruise ship cases and founder of CruiseLawNews.com, said the case is the latest incident highlighting the need for the widespread adoption of man overboard systems by the cruising industry. According to CruiseJunkie.com’s man overboard tracker, there have 373 cases of man overboard incidents in the cruise and passenger vessel industry since the year 2000.
“This overboard case, albeit ending successfully, is yet another example that Carnival owned and operated cruise ships are not equipped with automatic man overboard systems,” Walker wrote in a blog post. “The 2010 Vessel Security and Safety Act requires cruise ships to be equipped with systems which utilize radar and motion detection sensors to alert the bridge whenever someone goes over the rails of the ship. With such systems, officer in the bridge will be automatically notified when a person goes into the water and the person can be tracked even at nighttime by the radar and infrared technology.
The Coast Guard released video of the rescue below:
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