The Carnival passenger was seconds from death, the rescuer said

A US Coast Guard member involved in the remarkable rescue of a passenger who fell from a Carnival cruise ship said the man was seconds from death – after swimming alone in the Gulf of Mexico for over 15 hours.

“He had no energy. He had nothing left to give,” Richard Hoefle, aviation survival engineer, told WWL-TV.

“My best guess is he had between a minute and 30 seconds before we lost him completely.”

Hoefle was on duty on Thanksgiving night when he received word that a Carnival Valor passenger had crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.

Dramatic video showed rescuers plucking an exhausted James Grimes about 20 miles south of Louisiana’s Southwest Pass after crew of a cargo ship spotted him treading water.

Richard Hoefle, Coast Guard Survival Engineer.
Coast Guard Survival Technician Richard Hoefle said the passenger “had between a minute and 30 seconds left”.
Video image of the rescue of a passenger after 15 hours of water treading in the Gulf of Mexico.
Gripping footage showed an exhausted James Grimes being rescued after about 15 hours of treading water.
US Coast Guard

The Guardsman presented Grimes with a rescue sling before he was hoisted onto the hovering MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, which was carrying three other crew members.

“When I gave him that, he just burst into it. He didn’t… he couldn’t talk to me. I was able to learn his name and the cruise ship he fell off,” Hoefle told the news agency.

With a water temperature of around 70 degrees, Grimes battled hypothermia.

Coast Guard Rescue Helicopter
Hoefle seen in rescue gear along with his colleagues from the MH-60 Jayhawk crew.
US Coast Guard

“It’s hard to keep your mind in the right place and then wave that Hail Mary in the last few minutes, swing a sock around, anything to make yourself more visible to us, that’s survival,” Hoefle said.

“He just had an incredible will to survive. And he did what he had to do,” he said.

Höfle described the different reactions of people in sea rescue.

“Some people break down and cry, some people are in shock and don’t know what’s going on, some people get excited and act a little crazy because they’re so happy to get out of the situation they’re in. ‘ he told WWL-TV.

“That was one in a million and we did it,” added the Coast Guard member.

The mission to rescue Grimes covered an area the size of Rhode Island, Hoefle said.

The report of the heroic rescue comes after it was reported that Grimes got into trouble for vaping and was probably intoxicated when he disappeared from the ship bound for Cozumel, Mexico.

Valor passenger Whitney Gaines told the Daily Mail she overheard his family talking about him at breakfast the morning after he disappeared.

Cruise ship
The family of the man who fell off the Carnival Valor was heard saying he had been warned not to steam on board.

They talked about how “he kept getting in trouble for vaping in non-designated smoking areas because there’s only one area where you can really smoke,” she told the news outlet.

“I think they were alluding to the fact that he got out to go somewhere,” Gaines said, adding that Grimes’ family believed he was drunk.

The Coast Guard told WWL-TV that its New Orleans unit was one of the most active for rescue operations, adding that this October and November has been one of the busiest times. The Carnival passenger was seconds from death, the rescuer said


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