Cruise ship passenger who went overboard was ‘dead set’ on surviving during 20-hour wait for rescue

Michael James Grimes is speaking out for the first time in an exclusive interview with ABC News, almost 20 hours after going missing and being found overboard on a Carnival cruise ship.

The 28-year-old man said he was determined to make it out of the Gulf of Mexico alive, calling it a lifetime experience.

On November 24th, just after 8 p.M., ABC News was informed by the U.S. Coast Guard that Grimes was rescued by them via helicopter after struggling with jellyfish, strong ocean currents, and waters infested with sharks for nearly 20 hours and accidentally falling into the sea on the night before Thanksgiving.

Prior to using the restroom, Grimes emerged victorious in an air guitar competition at a dining establishment where the duo were last sighted together. Merely a day after his departure on the Carnival Valor, his sibling filed a report of his disappearance.

That is the final thing he recalls. Grimes stated he believes the tumble overboard rendered him unconscious.

“The following moment I realize… I regained awareness. I was in the ocean with no vessel in view,” he expressed.

In that instant, Grimes would emerge from the water, determined by the illumination emanating from the stars and the moon, surrounded by an encompassing darkness.

Grimes said, “Eventually they will find me… They will start looking for me… I was hoping. Now you all have got to survive and swim. And you know when you’re still alive for a reason. I was trying to stay positive, but in that moment, I felt like I could’ve fallen… You’re alive for a reason… Then I felt like I was given a right chance, I felt like I.”

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Grimes was aboard a five-day cruise with 18 members of his family for Thanksgiving when he didn’t report missing his sister’s return to his cabin.

Following the successful rescue, the Coast Guard permitted the ship to proceed towards its intended destination, Cozumel, which is a beautiful Mexican island located in the Caribbean.

“The Jayhawk aircrew hoisted the man onto the helicopter, transferring him to emergency medical services at Lakefront Airport in New Orleans, as per the statement from the Coast Guard.”

Lt. Seth Gross, a coordinator for search-and-rescue missions at Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, expressed his gratitude as he stated, “We are extremely thankful that this situation concluded in a favorable manner.”

The statement released by the Coast Guard on Thursday to ABC News expressed gratitude for the collective efforts of everyone involved, particularly highlighting the U.S. Coast Guard and the mariner who noticed the individual in the water. It was emphasized that passengers should never attempt to climb onto the rails, as intentionally scaling the safety barriers is the only way to go overboard. To ensure the safety of guests, cruise ships adhere to U.S. Coast Guard regulations by implementing safety barriers in all public spaces to prevent any accidental falls.

Carnival Valor stated in a declaration to ABC News that it carried out a search-and-rescue mission after Grimes disappeared.

The statement was made at the time that the family members of the missing guest, who were sailing with him on board, will continue to receive support from Team Care Carnival. The ship has now been released by the U.S. Coast Guard, but Carnival Valor will retrace its route to provide rescue and search support.

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Despite facing numerous challenges, Grimes stated that he maintained a optimistic outlook and “persevered continuously.”

Besides his demeanor, he expressed that it was his determination to reunite with his family that kept him buoyant.

Grimes stated, “This is not going to be easy. I’m too young. I’m 28 years old. I have never accepted the fact that this is how my life is going to end. I was completely stuck there and I wanted to see my family.”

I always thought there’s a greater purpose for my life, and I know that the Lord was there, helping me stay afloat and giving me strength. I don’t know it, but I’m sure I’m meant to do something on this Earth.

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