Man falls off cruise ship into ocean, found 15 hours later… alive

A passenger of the Carnival Valor Cruise Ship was rescued alive by the U.S. Coast Guard after going overboard and spending at least 15 hours in the Gulf of Mexico.

As reported by WWL-TV, the unidentified man, 28, was last seen with his sister at a bar on Wednesday night. He left to use the bathroom at around 11 p.m. and never returned to his room that night. His sister reported him missing the following morning. The ship was in the Gulf of Mexico en route to Cozumel.

Search efforts soon began on the cruise ship. On Thursday, the coastguard learned of the missing passenger at about 2:30 p.m. and launched additional search and rescue efforts.

Since the missing passenger was last seen, the Carnival Valor had traveled 200 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, according to USCG Lt. Seth Gross. This would be about the size of the state of Massachusetts – a search area of over 7,000 square nautical miles, as reported by WWL-TV.

The missing passenger was spotted by the vessel Crinis, about 20 miles south of Southwest Pass, La., and the mouth of the Mississippi roughly six hours later.

He was lifted onto the helicopter by the aircrew of a MH-60 Jayhawk. During an interview, the outlet reported that Lieutenant Gross confirmed that the missing passenger was responsive.

“He appeared to be suffering from mild hypothermia, shock, dehydration, but his condition overall appeared stable,” Lieutenant Gross explained.

Gross called this a “Thanksgiving miracle.” ” He told CNN that he was in the water for nearly 15 hours which was “the absolute longest that I’ve heard about.” He was overjoyed when he told the passenger’s family that he was alive; he said, “Truly just a miracle, especially on a holiday like Thanksgiving where it’s predominantly around family and spending time together.”

Gross gave credit to all those who helped in the search; he said, “We are beyond grateful that this case ended with a positive outcome. 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.”

Carnival’s public relations manager, Matt Lupoli, told PEOPLE, “We greatly appreciate the efforts of all, most especially the U.S. Coast Guard and the mariner who spotted the guest in the water.”