Man who survived 20 hours in Gulf of Mexico: ‘I feel like I was meant to get out of there’

Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 10:56 AM PST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Days after being rescued from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, 28-year-old James Michael Grimes was putting on a pair of pants when he reached into the pocket and found a slip of paper from a fortune cookie with the quote “Life’s a beach, enjoy the waves.”

Speaking to ABC, Grimes said those were the pants he was supposed to wear the day the Coast Guard pulled him from the waters.

Instead, Grimes spent that day treading water to survive after falling overboard from the Carnival cruise ship Valor.

Grimes had been in a bar on the cruise ship with his sister - winning an air guitar contest - when he left to go to the bathroom. But Grimes didn’t return to the bar. The next day when he had not returned to his cabin, his family reported him missing.

Grimes said he doesn’t remember going overboard.

“When I came to, regained consciousness, I was in the water, with no boat in sight,” Grimes said. “I can’t float myself even when I’m trying to. The Lord was with me when I was out there because something was holding me up the whole time while I was passed out.”

But Grimes said he was determined to survive.

“I was dead set on making it out of there,” he said. “I was never accepting that this is it - that this was the end of my life.

At some point, Grimes saw a passing tanker and swam toward it before being picked up out of the water by a Coast Guard helicopter crew.

The Coast Guard rescuers were “like a guardian angel coming down to me.”

“The fall didn’t kill me, sea creatures didn’t eat me, I feel like I was meant to get out of there,” Grimes said. “I always thought there’s a greater purpose for my life. Now, I know for sure I’m meant to do something on this Earth. And, you know, I don’t know. It was just the Lord was out there helping me, giving me strength and helping me stay afloat.”