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An overboard cruise passenger spent hours in the Gulf of Mexico before being rescued

A man who fell overboard while on a vacation cruise in the Gulf of Mexico has been rescued after several hours in the water off New Orleans, authorities said Friday.

The 28-year-old, who has not been publicly identified, may have been in the water for at least six hours when he was pulled out of the sea on Thursday. He was rescued about 20 miles south of Louisiana’s Southwest Pass, where the Mississippi River meets the coast, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

The man’s survival was hailed as unlikely and possibly miraculous given how long he was able to spend in the water. Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Graves said the man did not have a flotation device and it was unlikely he could survive at sea without a device.

“It makes it more miraculous that we were able to find him conscious and on the spot,” Graves said.

The cruise ship passenger was last seen aboard the Carnival Valor bound for Mexico around 11 p.m. Wednesday, Graves said.

Coast Guard rescue crews got the man to safety six hours after receiving a report at 2:30 p.m. Thursday of a passenger overboard, Graves said.

It is unclear how or when the man went too far. Carnival Cruise Lines said in a statement that an accidental fall into the water would be rare and physically difficult.

“Cruise ships have safety gates in all public areas that are regulated by US Coast Guard standards that prevent a guest from falling,” he said Friday. “Guests should never climb the rails. The only way to go too far is to deliberately climb the guard rails.”

Nighttime video from a Coast Guard plane appears to show the man struggling in relatively calm but active seas, where his head dipped below the surface with each wave. The agency said in a statement that the passenger was “responsive” when the crew aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter reached him.

Surface temperatures in the gulf are around 70 degrees, Gross said. Data from coastal monitors, buoys and oil rigs collected by federal forecasters and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography measured water temperatures Friday from 63 degrees near shore at Southwest Pass, to 70 and above offshore. .

Graves noted that in early October, even some of the warmest seasonal waters challenged three men who spent 28 hours at sea, 25 miles off the Louisiana coast, after the boat qu they were using capsized in rough seas.

The water was warm, he said, but the trio were plagued with signs of hypothermia when they were rescued by Coast Guard crews on October 9.

The average October sea temperature near the shore at Mobile State Docks, Alabama is nearly 77°C; it was slightly higher there at 62 on Friday, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Experts have suggested that survival in water that is 60 degrees or colder is not likely after six hours, but warmer water may increase the chance of success. Cold shock, swimming failure and hypothermia can lead to death, including drowning and cardiac arrest.

TJ Swigart contributed.


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