Carnival cruise ship passenger who spent 15 hours overboard in the Gulf of Mexico was 30 seconds from death says Coast Guard rescuer as he reveals new details of the miracle at sea: ‘He had nothing left to give’

  • James Grimes, 28, was rescued by the US Coast Guard in the Gulf of Mexico on Thanksgiving Day after falling overboard from a Carnival cruise ship
  • He was found at about 8.30pm and was showing signs of hypothermia, shock, and dehydration after 15 hours at sea
  • Coast Guard says Grimes was found responsive and ‘seconds from death’ before he was taken to New Orleans for treatment 
  • He was last seen in the ship’s bar with his sister before he left to use the restroom around 11pm on Wednesday and did not return 

A cruise ship passenger who fell overboard only had minutes to live before he was rescued by the Coast Guard after struggling for more than 15 hours in the water.

James Grimes, 28, had been waving a sock above his head in a desperate attempt to attract attention before being spotted by a carrier ship.

He had been traveling on the Carnival cruise ship Valor with his parents and sister when he vanished after a boozy night at the bar.

Grimes was reported missing around 12 hours after he disappeared, at 12pm on Thanksgiving, and was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico after the ship set sail from New Orleans, Louisiana.

US Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician Richard Hoefle (pictured) said James Grimes was ‘at his limit’ after spending 15 hours stranded in waters in the Gulf of Mexico 

‘Mr. Grimes had nothing left. He had no energy. He had nothing left to give. My best guess is that he had between a minute and 30 seconds left before we lost him completely,’ said Hoefle (pictured) , an Aviation Survival Technician 3rd Class

Grimes was found in the Gulf of Mexico on Thanksgiving Day after going missing from the Carnival Valor (pictured in March)

US Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician Richard Hoefle explained that Grimes was ‘at his limit’ when his four-man crew arrived to help save his life.

‘Some people break down and cry, some people are in shock, and they don’t know what’s going on, some people are ecstatic and they act a little crazy because they are so happy to be out of the situation that they are in,’ he told 4WWL.

‘Mr. Grimes had nothing left. He had no energy. He had nothing left to give. My best guess is that he had between a minute and 30 seconds left before we lost him completely.’

Dramatic footage shows Grimes struggling to fight the swells of the water, with the Coast Guard releasing footage of his rescue.

The boat was on its way from New Orleans to Cozumel when the man went overboard

The incredible footage, released by the US Coast Guard on Friday night, shows the man desperately trying to keep his head above the swelling waves

He vanishes for seconds at a time (pictured, just a hand visible above the water) but manages to claw himself back above the swirling water off the coast of Louisiana

The dramatic moment Grimes was hoisted out of the Gulf of Mexico after 15 hours was released by the US Coast Guard. It shows him desperately trying to keep his head above the swelling waves.

He vanishes for seconds at a time but manages to claw himself back above the swirling water off the coast of Louisiana.

Rescuers finally managed to winch him out of the water using a basket suspended from a helicopter in the darkness at 8.25pm.

The Coast Guard said he was suffering from hypothermia and dehydration.

The miraculous rescue came after a tanker spotted the man flailing in the waters earlier that evening.

The almost pitch-black clip shows Coast Guard officers scrambling to get to him as he is chucked around by the stormy sea. They carefully lower a basket from the helicopter, and he fails to cling on to it several times before finally finding his grip

He is then winched up towards the helicopter and bundled into the chopper before being medically evaluated

Teams had been scouring an area in the gulf the size of Rhode Island for the missing man before a vessel spotted him 20 miles south of Southwest Pass.

Grimes only had one sock on when he was rescued, with the water temperature around 70 degrees and he was suffering from hypothermia.

Hoefle handed him a rescue sling, adding: ‘Once I handed that to him, he just collapsed into it. He didn’t have any energy. He couldn’t talk to me. I was able to get his name and the cruise ship he had fallen off

‘It’s hard to keep your mind in the right place, and then to throw that hail Mary in last couple of minutes of waving, swinging a sock around, anything to make himself more visible to us, that’s survival. He just had an incredible will to survive. And he did whatever he had to do.

‘That was a one in a million and we got it done. We worked as a team and we were able to help somebody,’ Hoefle added.

The almost pitch-black clip shows Coast Guard officers scrambling to get to him as he is chucked around by the stormy sea.

They carefully lower a basket from the helicopter and he fails to cling to it several times before finally finding his grip.

He is then winched up towards the helicopter and bundled into the chopper before being medically evaluated.

‘That was a one in a million and we got it done. We worked as a team and we were able to help somebody,’ Hoefle added. He is pictured alongside his team ,from left Lt. Katy Caraway, AMT2 Dalton Goetsch, , and Lt. Travis Rhea far right. The four Coast Guardsmen are part of an Air Station New Orleans MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew. Hoefle and Rhea were involved in this rescue

The man was transported back to New Orleans on a helicopter (pictured) 

A passenger on board the ship, Whitney Gaines, pictured here, told DailyMail.com that she sat next to the missing man’s family at breakfast the morning after he vanished. The family were talking about how he didn’t come back to his room that night

The Coast Guard says that of the dozen people who fall overboard on cruise ships, the majority are never found, as it is difficult to spot someone in the vast open waters.

Officials say the New Orleans Coast Guard is one of the most active for water rescues, and this October and November have been one of their most busy times.

Timeline:

Wednesday 11pm: The man is last seen at the bar with his sister 

Thursday midday: Sister reports him missing to crew staff

Noon-2:30pm: Crew searches for the man and cannot find him

2:30pm: US Coast Guard received a call and Carnival Valor begins backtracking toward New Orleans 

Unspecific time: Ship is released from search by the Coast Guard 

8:25pm: He is spotted by another vessel and rescued by the Coast Guard via helicopter 

Total time overboard: 21.5 hours 

A passenger on board the ship, Whitney Gaines, told DailyMail.com that she sat next to the missing man’s family at breakfast the morning after he vanished. The family were talking about how he didn’t come back to his room that night.

Gaines said that his family was speaking of how ‘he kept getting in trouble for vaping in non-designated smoke areas because there’s only one area where you can really go smoke.’

According to Carnival’s official website, smoking, including vaping, is only permitted on Decks 3 and 10 on board the ship, as well in the boat’s casino.

The Coast Guard confirmed to DailyMail.com that Grimes was the one who had been rescued from the water.

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