The US Coast Guard rescues a Carnival cruise ship passenger reported missing in the Gulf of Mexico

(CNN) – In the wee hours after Carnival Valor sails from New Orleans on Thanksgiving Eve, a brother and sister set off to a place appropriate for the holiday mood: They head to a bar on the ship.

As expected, the man at some point moved away to use the bathroom.

But he didn’t come back.

Hours passed.

He was not in his luxurious room.

He simply disappeared.

What happened next bewildered at least one veteran mariner who, after hours of hindsight, declared the astounding result unlike anything he had ever seen—no less than “one of the miracles of Thanksgiving.”

The search is initiated by air and sea

It was about 11 p.m. when her brother left, Carnival spokesperson Matt Lupoli told CNN Thursday in a statement.

The following afternoon — Thanksgiving — she was reported missing, the statement said. Officials did not specify which one.

Advertisements across the ship for the missing passenger to check-in guest services echoed guest services passenger Mike Anderson of CNN on Thursday, and “people noticed security starting to search the boat with the photo of the missing (passenger) in their phones.”

He said that around 2pm a final check-in request was issued.

Anderson said passengers were told their arrival at the port of call in Cozumel, Mexico, would be delayed, but there was no official announcement of what happened.

He said the ship turned around.

“The Carnival of Valor has re-routed to support search and rescue operations,” Lupoli explained.

Then around 2:30 p.m., the Coast Guard received a call from the ship, Coast Guard Lt. Philip Vanderwit said in a statement.

Missing cruise passenger.

Soon, he said, a multi-crew search for the man — by air and by sea — began.

200 mile area and mission critical

USCG Search and Rescue Coordinator Lt. Seth Gross told CNN Friday morning that an alert had been issued to all sailors in the Gulf, and that the Coast Guard had “released all available resources.”

That includes a small boat from Venice, Fla., a helicopter based in New Orleans and planes from Clearwater, Fla., and Mobile, Alabama, he said.

The search extended more than 200 miles into the Gulf, Gross said, adding that the water temperature there Thursday night was just over 70 degrees — and somewhat colder in the Mississippi River.

“We knew that communication with sailors in the Gulf of Mexico would be critical,” Gross said, given the time lag between the man’s last sighting and when the Coast Guard was alerted.

The task intensified.

Then, amid the vast search area, a crew on another ship spotted something, VanderWitt said.

“Unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of.”

man was.

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from New Orleans flew to the site and “lifted the man aboard,” Vander Witt said.

US Coast Guard officer Ryan Graves said he was responsive.

Rescuers couldn’t say how long he had been in the water, Gross told CNN This Morning — but it could have been more than 15 hours.

If it’s that long, he said, it’s “the longest I’ve ever heard of it—and one of those Thanksgiving miracles.”

Of his 17-year career, Gross said, “This case is unlike anything I’ve been a part of.” “I think it kind of hits the norm, the normality, out of the water here, and really shows that the will to live is something that you need to account for in every search and rescue situation.”

The missing passenger has been transferred to emergency medical staff at New Orleans Lakefront Airport, Graves said.

Gross said he is being evaluated at the hospital.

Back at the carnival, Anderson said an announcement made Thursday night over the PA system informed guests of an incident involving a person falling overboard.

However, the ship was released from the search, Anderson remembered what he had heard, and once again was sailing towards Cozumel.

CNN’s Dave Alsop, Amanda Jackson, Jose Leach and Teresa Waldrop contributed to this report.

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