A man fell down from a cruise ship and survived for 15 hours at sea

He survived despite hypothermia.
Nergis Firtina
Missing man and Carnival Valor cruise ship
Missing man and Carnival Valor cruise ship

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On Thanksgiving that we left behind, a miracle happened. A 28-year-old man fell from one of Carnival's cruise ships and went missing in the Gulf of Mexico. He was rescued after "15 hours."

As CNN reported, a brother and a sister set off with Carnival Valor from New Orleans, and the accident happened in the first hours of the voyage. Rescue efforts began after it was understood that the passenger had fallen. At least one seasoned mariner was shocked by what transpired next and said, in hindsight, after several hours, that it was unlike anything he had ever seen.

He was rescued 20 miles south of Southwest Pass

Rescue efforts were carried out by air and sea. The United States Coast Guard reported it, watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans received a call from the Carnival Valor reporting that a passenger aboard the cruise liner was missing. He was rescued 20 miles south of Southwest Pass, Louisiana.

“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.”

The man vs. hypothermia

The most interesting part of the incident was that he survived in the gulf despite hypothermia. Given the time difference between when the man was last seen and when the Coast Guard was alerted, "we knew that communication with the mariners in the Gulf of Mexico was going to be critical," Lt. Seth Gross, a search and rescue coordinator for the USCG told CNN on Friday morning.

"This case is unlike anything I've been a part of," Gross also explained CNN. "I think 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."

What is hypothermia?

In humans, hypothermia is defined as a body core temperature below 35.0 °C (95.0 °F). Symptoms are temperature dependent. Shivering and mental disorientation are symptoms of moderate hypothermia. Shivering quits, and disorientation rises with moderate hypothermia. There may be hallucinations and paradoxical undressing, in which a person removes their garments and an increased chance of heart-stopping in extreme hypothermia.

There are two primary types of hypothermia causes. It is most commonly caused by exposure to cold weather and immersion in cold water. It can also be caused by any condition that reduces heat production or increases heat loss. This commonly includes alcohol intoxication, but it can also be caused by low blood sugar, anorexia, or advanced age. 

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