The cruise ship passenger who fell overboard and survived in the water for nearly 20 hours reveals he fought off what he initially believed to be a shark and survived by eating a bamboo-like substance that came floating by.
James Michael Grimes made his comments in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday.
Grimes said he treaded water after going overboard on the Carnival cruise ship Valor on the night before Thanksgiving. He was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard shortly after 8 p.m. the next day, in what people are calling a Thanksgiving miracle.
ABC News reported that Grimes had only been on the ship for a day before his sister told personnel he was missing. The two had been together at a restaurant. He told his sister he was going to the bathroom, but didn't return.
"We were just hanging out, having a good time watching some live music," he said.
Grimes said he had some alcoholic beverages, but was not drunk.
He told GMA that he has no recollection of falling overboard and he believes the fall knocked him unconscious.
"When I came to … regained consciousness, I was in the water with no boat in sight," he said.
"I can't float myself when I'm trying to, so the Lord was with me when I was out there. Something was holding me up the whole time I was passed out.
"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.
"My worst fear is drowning and that was something I did not want to have to face.
"I wanted to see my family and I was dead set on making it out of there, you know. I was never accepting that this is it. This is going to be the end of my life."
He said that while floating in the Gulf of Mexico he had an encounter with a creature with a fin.
"I thought it was a shark," he said. "I mean, I was swimming in one direction and looked around. I seen it out the corner of my eye, and it came upon me really quick and went under and I could see it and it wasn't a shark, I don't believe.
"But it had more like a flat mouth and came up and bumped one of my legs and I kicked it with the other leg. It scared me not knowing what it was or at the time how big it was. All I could see was a fin."
He said he ate what he noted looked like bamboo.
"A stick come floating by," he said. "Looked like bamboo so I started eating on it and it actually — I won't say it tasted good but it gave some type of flavor in my mouth other than salt water.
"When it started getting back towards nighttime again the water started getting colder, at that time I thought, you know, How much longer am I going to have to be out here?
"You know, the fall didn't kill me, you know, sea creatures didn't eat me, I felt like I was meant to get out of there."
He was finally rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter sent to search for him. He saw someone from the Coast Guard being lowered down for the rescue at sea.
"Well, the first thing I actually told him, I don't have any clothes on because I didn't. I stripped out of everything," Grimes revealed.
"He said that's fine. I was like, OK, he told me to hold on to this life vest and I was just thinking, 'Thank you, you are like a guardian angel coming down for me.' "
The ship was on its way to Cozumel, a Mexican island in the Caribbean, and was released by the Coast Guard to continue to its destination after the rescue was made.
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