Man Who Fell Off Carnival Ship Could Have Been in Water for 15 Hours: 'Thanksgiving Miracle'

Man Who Fell Off Carnival Ship Could Have Been in Water for 15 Hours: 'Thanksgiving Miracle'

The man who fell overboard from the Carnival ship Valor on Thursday and who was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard could have been in the water for as long as 15 hours, authorities have confirmed.

"We greatly appreciate the efforts of all, most especially the U.S. Coast Guard and the mariner who spotted the guest in the water," Matt Lupoli, Carnival's senior manager of public relations told PEOPLE Friday.

The missing passenger, who has not been identified, had been last seen on Wednesday night at approximately 11 p.m., according to CNN, as the ship sailed in the Gulf of Mexico from New Orleans, Louisiana, toward Cozumel, Mexico.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan Graves told CNN Thursday that the passenger "was found responsive at the time of rescue and was transferred to awaiting emergency medical personnel at New Orleans Lakefront Airport."

Lt. Seth Gross, a search and rescue coordinator for the Coast Guard said the man could have been in the water for as long as 15 hours, "the absolute longest that I've heard about — and just one of those Thanksgiving miracles," he said.

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Carnival Valor
Carnival Valor

Gerard Bottino/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Carnival Valor

The USCG did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for additional comment.

The man's sister reported him missing around noon on Thursday, per CNN, and the Coast Guard was alerted to the potential of a person overboard at around 2:30 p.m., while the Valor turned back to aid in the search.

After multiple crews searched for the man, he was spotted by a mariner and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew "hoisted the man onto the helicopter," Coast Guard Lt. Phillip VanderWeit said in a statement.

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Guests told CNN that they did not know at the time that a fellow passenger had gone overboard.

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Passenger Mike Anderson told the outlet that the ship's guests were told there would be a delay in arriving in Mexico. A public address announcement later informed them that a man had gone overboard but the ship had been released from the search and was now able to resume its course for Cozumel.

In February, a 32-year-old female passenger on the Valor fell into the water, about 150 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

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Passengers at the time had reported that she had hit the side of the boat before falling in the water. The Coast Guard later called off the search for the woman.

The incident occurred as the cruise ship was on its way back to New Orleans following a five-day trip to Mexico, according to Carnival.