Rescuer Says Cruise Passenger Pulled from Water After 15 Hours Had '30 Seconds to a Minute' to Live

Rescuer Says Cruise Passenger Pulled from Water After 15 Hours Had '30 Seconds to a Minute' to Live

The man who was rescued from the Gulf of Mexico after falling off a cruise ship was moments away from death, according to one of his rescuers.

James Grimes, 28, was saved by the U.S. Coast Guard last Thursday after falling off the Carnival ship Valor, according to CBS News and local affiliate WWL-TV. The U.S. Coast Guard previously said the victim may have spent as many as 15 hours treading water before his rescue.

Richard Hoefle, a Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician for the New Orleans division, told the outlets that he believes the victim "had about 30 seconds to a minute left" before he would have died.

"Mr. Grimes had nothing left," Hoefle explained, per CBS News. "He had no energy. He had nothing left to give."

Carnival Valor
Carnival Valor

Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines via Getty

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Grimes was last seen at approximately 11 p.m. last Wednesday as the ship sailed in the Gulf of Mexico from New Orleans toward Cozumel, Mexico, CNN previously reported.

The man's sister reported him missing around noon on Thursday, and the Coast Guard was alerted to the potential of a person overboard at around 2:30 p.m.

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Rescuers searched for Grimes in an area the size of Rhode Island, according to CBS News and FOX affiliate WVUE-DT.

About three-and-a-half hours into the search, a container boat informed the Coast Guard that it had passed by an individual in the water, Hoefle told WVUE-DT. The boat reportedly attempted to help the victim by sending a smaller boat out to get him, but had been unsuccessful.

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The Coast Guard found Grimes moments later, Hoefle said. The victim was "very confused" and "very disoriented" during the rescue, he added.

"We could see that he was in a distressed state," Hoefle told WVUE-DT. "He didn't have much time left."

Upon handing Grimes a rescue sling, Hoefle told WWL-TV that the victim "just collapsed into it."

Grimes was airlifted to a hospital, where he is still recovering from hypothermia, according to CBS News.

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Hoefle applauded Grimes' "incredible will to survive" in the choppy waters, telling CBS News, "He didn't have flotation [devices], he didn't have radio or flares. He just had to do anything that he could with what he had, which was nothing."

Hoefle also lauded the Coast Guard's efforts to locate the man before it was too late.

"That was a one in a million and we got it done," he told WWL-TV. "We worked as a team and we were able to help somebody."