Man Who Fell Off Cruise Ship Swam With Sharks, Treaded 20 Hours

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An Alabama man who fell overboard on a Carnival cruise ship said he swam with sharks and treaded water for nearly 20 hours after the accident.

James Michael Grimes, 28, called his survival story an experience of a lifetime during an exclusive interview with ABC News that aired on Good Morning America Friday (December 2) morning.

Grimes said he spent nearly 20 hours treading waters alone in the Gulf of Mexico, which included sharks, jelly fish and strong rip currents.

The 28-year-old was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard just after 8:00 p.m., the military branch confirmed to ABC News.

Grimes and 18 of his family members were only aboard the five-day cruise for a day when his sister reported him missing.

The two were last seen at a restaurant when Grimes won an air guitar contest -- which Grimes admitted to having a few drinks during the day prior to, as well as winning a free drink -- before going to the bathroom, which is what he claims is the last thing he remembers before being knocked unconscious during the fall overboard.

"The next thing I know... I regained consciousness. I was in the water with no boat in sight," Grimes said via ABC News.

"I felt like I was given a chance right then... you're alive for a reason... that [fall] could've killed me, but I felt like from that moment on, I was trying to stay positive. And, you know when you're here, you're still alive for a reason. So, all you got to do now is swim and survive. I was hoping... they will start looking for me... they will find me eventually," he added.

The Carnival cruise was headed to the Mexican island Cozumel and continued its voyage after the Coast Guard rescued Grimes.

"The Jayhawk aircrew hoisted the man onto the helicopter and transferred him to awaiting emergency medical services at the New Orleans Lakefront Airport," the Coast Guard said in a statement obtained by ABC News on Thursday (December 1).

"We are beyond grateful that this case ended with a positive outcome," said Lt. Seth Gross, a Coast Guard Sector New Orleans search-and-rescue mission coordinator, via ABC News.

"We greatly appreciate the efforts of all, most especially the U.S. Coast Guard and the mariner who spotted the guest in the water," the Coast Guard added in its statement to ABC News. "Cruise ships have safety barriers in all public areas that are regulated by U.S. Coast Guard standards that prevent a guest from falling off. Guests should never ever climb up on the rails. The only way to go overboard is to purposefully climb up and over the safety barriers."

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