“This is an exceptionally rare case,” Ryan Graves, a petty officer in public affairs with the 8th District, told The Washington Post. “It is really nothing short of a Thanksgiving miracle to be able to pick somebody up after that long in the water without any sort of flotation device.”
Graves said the man was in stable condition when he was rescued and was able to provide his name to the team aboard the helicopter. The Coast Guard transported him to emergency medical services waiting at New Orleans Lakefront Airport.
In its search, the Coast Guard also deployed a 45-foot response boat from Venice, La., and a fixed-wing airplane from Mobile, Ala. Commercial sailors on the bulk carrier CRINIS told the Coast Guard they observed a man in the water, helping the helicopter crew locate him.
“We are beyond grateful that this case ended with a positive outcome,” Lt. Seth Gross, a Sector New Orleans search and rescue mission coordinator, said in a news release. “It took a total team effort from Coast Guard watch standers, response crews, and our professional maritime partners operating in the Gulf of Mexico to locate the missing individual and get him to safety.”
“It’s why we joined, really, is to do things like this,” Graves said. “On a holiday like this, it’s good to bring him back to his family.” Representatives for Carnival Cruise Line declined to provide details about what the passenger was doing before he went overboard but expressed their gratitude for the rescue.
“We greatly appreciate the efforts of all, most especially the U.S. Coast Guard and the mariner who spotted the guest in the water,” Matt Lupoli, Senior Manager of Public Relations for Carnival Cruise Line, said in an email.
Chris Chiames, the company’s chief communications officer, said in an email that cruise ship safety barriers are regulated by Coast Guard standards to prevent falls. “Guests should never ever climb up on the rails,” Chiames said. “The only way to go overboard is to purposefully climb up and over the safety barriers.”
A previous version of this story incorrectly said the Coast Guard received a call about a missing passenger Wednesday afternoon. It was Thursday.