A man who fell off of a cruise ship in the middle of the night said he survived by treading water for 20 hours, eating bamboo, and fighting off jellyfish in shark-infested waters
- The man who tumbled off of the Carnival Valor cruise ship the day before Thanksgiving spoke out.
- In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America," he described in detail the 20-hour fight for his life.
A man who fell off of a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico after a few drinks shared his story of survival for the first time, describing how he trod water for almost a full day and fought off sea creatures while fading in and out of consciousness.
In an exclusive interview with ABC's "Good Morning America," passenger James Michael Grimes said he had a couple of drinks on the Carnival Valor on November 23, the night before Thanksgiving. He wasn't drunk, he said, but doesn't remember what happened next.
The next 20 hours of his life ended up being a fight for survival, he added.
Grimes shared with ABC that after telling his sister he was going to the bathroom at 11 p.m. local time that night, he regained consciousness in the ocean.
—Good Morning America (@GMA) December 2, 2022
"I came to, and I was in the water with no boat in sight," Grimes told ABC. The cruise was headed from New Orleans to Cozumel, a Mexican island in the Caribbean, traveling through the Gulf of Mexico. For the next almost 20 hours, Grimes described how he trod water and fought for his life, encountering jellyfish and another unidentified sea creature with a fin.
"It came up on me really quick and I went under, and I could see it. And it wasn't a shark, I don't believe," Grimes said. "But it had more like a flat mouth, and it came up and bumped one of my legs, and I kicked it with the other leg. It scared me, not knowing what it was, all I could see was a fin."
As night struck and Grimes awaited rescue, he said that he had to eat objects floating by to sustain his energy, including a plank of bamboo.
"It gave some type of flavor in my mouth other than saltwater," Grimes told ABC. "I was never accepting that this is it — this is going to be the end of my life."
By 8:25 p.m. on Thanksgiving day, a Coast Guard tanker spotted Grimes and rescued him, according to CNN. Grimes did not respond to Insider's request for comment.
In a statement sent to Insider, Carnival said that the only way of falling overboard "is to purposefully climb up and over the safety barriers."
"We greatly appreciate the efforts of all, most especially the US Coast Guard and the mariner who spotted Mr. Grimes in the water," Matt Lupoli, a spokesperson for the company said. "Cruise ships have safety barriers in all public areas that are regulated by US Coast Guard standards that prevent a guest from falling off. No one should ever climb up on the rails. The only way to go overboard is to purposefully climb up and over the safety barriers."
Shant'a Miller White, a passenger who was onboard the ship with her husband and other family members for a Thanksgiving getaway, told Insider that Carnival partially left passengers in the dark regarding the mysterious overboard passenger.
"It was scary because so many people were having different conversations around the boat," Miller White said. "First the rumor was it was a child…then we found out it was an adult."
"We just heard them calling a name over the intercom," she added.
During Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday night, White said passengers were informed that the boat was rerouting to undergo a search and rescue mission.
"When we found out someone had went overboard, or fell, or jumped, or whatever the case may be, I instantly was very nervous and scared," White said. "And didn't know what was going to happen because we didn't have cell service at the time because we were so far out."
The news of Grimes's rescue was eventually crowdsourced, Miller White said.
"I found out that the Coast Guard had rescued him when I received service on my phone and from my family sending screenshots of the news," Miller White said. "I'm grateful and thankful to God that he is alive, but I will say that I don't plan to ever go on Carnival again because I don't feel they were empathetic to the other 3,000 or so people on that boat for all that was going on."
Carnival did not respond to specific questions about Miller White's experience.
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