In the first hours after the Carnival Valor set sail from New Orleans on Thanksgiving Eve, the brother and sister went to a place befitting the holiday spirit: They headed to the onboard bar.

Predictably, the man at some point retreated to the restroom.

But he did not return.

Hours passed.

He was not in his cabin.

The 28-year-old simply disappeared.

What happened next surprised at least one seasoned mariner, who in retrospect declared the stunning result unlike anything he had ever witnessed — and nothing short of “one of those Thanksgiving miracles.”

An air and sea search is underway

It was about 11 p.m. when her brother left, the sister recalled, Carnival spokesman Matt Lupoli told CNN on Thursday.

At noon the next day — Thanksgiving — she reported him missing, the statement said. Officials have not identified either.

Announcements were made throughout the ship Thursday for a missing passenger to check in with guest services, passenger Mike Anderson told CNN, and people “noticed security began searching the boat with a picture of the missing (passenger) on their phones.”

The last registration request was issued around 2 pm, he said.

Passengers were told their arrival time at their port of call in Cozumel, Mexico, would be delayed, Anderson said, but there was no official word on what had happened.

The ship, he said, then turned around.

“Carnival Valor has resumed its route to support search and rescue,” Lupoli explained.

The Coast Guard then received a call from the ship around 2:30 p.m., Coast Guard Lt. Phillip Vanderweite said in a statement.

Missing cruise passenger.

Soon, the multi-member crew searching for the man – by air and sea – was underway, he said.

200 mile zone and important mission

An alert was issued to all mariners in the gulf and the Coast Guard was “engaging all available resources,” Lt. Seth Gross, USCG search and rescue coordinator, told CNN Friday morning.

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

The search continued for more than 200 miles of the bay, Gross said, adding that water temperatures Thursday night were just above 70 degrees — and somewhat cooler in the Mississippi River.

Given the time difference between when the man was last seen and when the Coast Guard was alerted, “we knew that communication with mariners in the Gulf of Mexico was going to be critical,” Gross said.

The mission has intensified.

About 20 miles south of Southwest Pass, Louisiana, the crew of the bulk carrier CRINIS was scanning the water, the Coast Guard said in a news release Friday.

Then, around 8:25 p.m., they noticed something.

“Unlike anything I’ve been a part of”

It was a man.

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from New Orleans headed to the scene — and “got the man up in the helicopter,” VanderWite said.

And he responded, USCG Chief Ryan Graves said.

The agency later reported that the 28-year-old fell overboard.

Rescuers could not determine 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 been that long, it’s “the longest I’ve heard of — and just one of those Thanksgiving miracles,” he said.

In his 17-year career, “this case is unlike anything I’ve been involved in,” Gross said. “I think it kind of breaks the norm, the normalcy here, and really just shows the will to live, which is something you have to consider in every search and rescue.”

“If it weren’t for the on-duty crew of the CRINIS steamship, this case could have ended much more difficult,” he said in a press release. “It took the combined efforts of the Coast Guard watch, response crews and our professional maritime partners operating in the Gulf of Mexico to locate the missing man and bring him to safety.”

The rescued man was transferred to EMS at New Orleans Lakefront Airport, Graves said.

Gross said he was being evaluated at a hospital and was listed in stable condition by the Coast Guard late Friday morning.

Anderson said guests aboard the Carnival Valor were notified over the public address system Thursday evening of the incident involving the person overboard.

Anderson recalled that the ship, however, was released from the search, and it sailed again to Cozumel.

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