He went beyond death: Drowning man fought for his life for 15 hours and won

James Grimes fell off a cruise ship.  Photo: © ABC News

James Grimes fell off a cruise ship. Photo: © ABC News

family cruise

For 28-year-old American James Grimes, a cruise from New Orleans to Mexican Cozumel was the first in his life. He boarded the luxurious ship with 18 of his relatives: several generations of Grimes decided to spend a week together after not seeing each other for several years due to the coronavirus.

Alas, James did not manage to visit Mexico: the man fell overboard when the ship was sailing through the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The poor fellow spent more than 15 hours in the open ocean!

James disappeared the first night. After dinner, he went to a bar with one of his sisters. The fun continued, and around midnight, James said that he would go to the toilet. But he never returned to the bar. Everyone decided that the guy who had gone over the alcohol had gone to sleep in the cabin.

Missed him only the next day. All this time, James was desperately trying to survive in the open ocean.



A photo: Alexey STEFANOV

chewed bamboo

But how did the guy end up overboard? James says he doesn’t remember.

At some point, I woke up in total darkness. I realized that I was in the open ocean and there was no ship nearby! he paints. – My main fear was the fear of drowning. But I wanted to see my family again and just didn’t want to accept that this would be the end of my life.

The American was helped to stay on the water by a bamboo trunk that came from nowhere in the sea. He also chewed it sometimes. So-so food, but bamboo helped the guy get rid of the terrible taste of salt water in his mouth.

At some point, something stupidly hit the poor fellow in the legs: Grimes decided that he was surrounded by sharks, and mentally said goodbye to life. But the underwater creature, whoever it was, left the man alone.

In an interview with TV people, James said that he was saved by optimism. The guy repeated to himself over and over: “Falling overboard didn’t kill me, the sharks didn’t eat me, so I will live!”

The ship that James sailed on is a real houseboat.  Photo: Mason Piscitelli/Wikimedia Commons

The ship that James sailed on is a real houseboat. Photo: Mason Piscitelli/Wikimedia Commons

Naked and frozen

Indeed, after spending the night and most of the next day in the water, James saw the lights of a large tanker. And he felt, as he now understands, the last burst of energy. Approaching the huge ship, he also noticed rescue helicopters circling above him.

The guy took off his T-shirt and shorts, tried to swing them over his head, but did not get into the spotlights. The helicopters circled three times before the pilots saw the man in the water.

James almost passed out when the bright light finally hit his eyes. I managed to whisper to the rescuer descending the cable that he was completely naked in the water. The man was completely exhausted, suffered from hunger and hypothermia (the water temperature at night dropped to 21 degrees Celsius – not critical for a person, but still quite cold), but he responded to questions from rescuers and was able to give his name.

Back at sea?

Now James Grimes is no longer afraid of anything, believing that he has his own guardian angel. And even plans to go on another cruise. Even if only because the previous one did not end the way he wanted.

But the cruise company does not even think of giving the lucky person a free voyage. The captain of the cruise ship and the management of the company insist: the weather was fine, not a hint of a storm, and you can fall into the water through the railings of open decks and balconies in the cabins only with a very strong desire. In addition, it seems strange to many that the failure that occurred in the memory of the passenger at the time of falling overboard. The opinion of critics is unanimous: James jumped into the water while drunk.

James himself tells the following detail: before boarding the liner, he found a traditional fortune cookie in the pocket of his trousers. The prophecy on the piece of paper read: “Life is an eternal swim, so enjoy the waves.” Apparently, higher powers are also sometimes not averse to joking…


5 tips for survival on the high seas

What to do if you are in open water and have to wait for help indefinitely? Oleg Gegelsky, an expert on survival in emergency situations, gave advice to readers of Komsomolskaya Pravda.

1. Suppress the panic. In extreme situations, it is panic that most often kills: adrenaline is released, and it “burns out” all the useful substances necessary for a long struggle, often causing vasospasm. That is, a person can flounder with a fright for an hour and a half, and then, exhausted, go to the bottom.

2. Try to find floating objects. They will help you stay on the surface of the water longer.

3. Find landmarks. It could be a shoal or an island. If there is a feasible distance to a hard surface, start moving in this direction – calmly, preferably on your back, in order to save your strength as much as possible. If you have been on a ship where many people have seen you, it is best to stay where you are.

4. Don’t fight the current. If it is strong, it is useless to fight it. You should swim out of it slowly and at an angle.

5. Don’t get rid of your clothes. Clothing reduces heat loss. Heavy coats and jackets should be removed. The rest must be left.

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