The man who fell off a Carnival cruise ship last week and was subsequently rescued 20 hours later in the Gulf of Mexico says he can’t remember exactly how he fell, but insists he wasn’t drunk.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News, James Michael Grimes sat down to talk with Eva Pilgrim about his 20-hour ordeal.
The 28-year-old man, was on board the Carnival Valor along with 18 family members to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.
The ship left from New Orleans and on the first night of the trip, Grimes disappeared. He had been hanging out with his sister at one of the bars, and after he left to use the bathroom he did not return.
According to the New York Post, his sister reported him missing the following day around noon.
Now, in an interview released Friday, Grimes shared his side of the story.
“My worst fear is drowning, and that was something I did not want to have to face,” Grimes said.
“We were just hanging out, having a good time — watching some live music. That’s pretty much it,” he told Pilgrim about the night he fell overboard.
“Yeah. Did you have a few drinks?” she asked.
“I had — during the day and I actually did, like, an air guitar solo, and there was a competition they were doing and I’d won it, so I’d won a free drink. So I had that,” Grimes is heard narrating over video of him shredding on a blow-up electric guitar.
As Pilgrim continued to press, the man insisted that he was not drunk when he fell off the boat but could not remember how many drinks he had that day.
“But you hadn’t had, like — you weren’t like inebriated — had like a ton of drinks?” Pilgrim asked.
“No, ma’am,” he replied.
Grimes claims that he had no recollection of heading to the bathroom or even falling from the ship. He woke up in the water, with no boat in sight.
“So you, for a while, were passed out in the water?” Pilgrim asked.
“Yes, ma’am. Yep. And I can’t float myself even when I’m trying to, so there had to be, you know, the Lord was with me when I was out there because something was holding me up the whole time while I was passed out,” Grimes said.
The area in which Grimes fell, is known to be a feeding ground for sharks and Grimes claimed to have fought off something in the water — an unidentified sea creature.
“I thought it was a shark. I mean, I was swimming in one direction and I looked around and I seen it out the corner of my eye and it came up on me really quick and I 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 it 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,” Grimes said.
During the 20-hour ordeal, Grimes ate what he could find floating around him, including sticks.
“A stick come floating by, looked like bamboo. So I started eating on it and it actually, I mean, I’m not gonna say it tasted good, but it gave some type of flavor in my mouth other than salt water,” he recalled.
Throughout his time in the water, Grimes questioned how long he could survive but pushed himself to keep swimming.
“The fall didn’t kill me. You know, sea creatures didn’t eat me. I felt like I was meant to get outta there,” he said.
The Coast Guard rescued Grimes on Thanksgiving night. Responders said he was minutes from certain death. Grimes, who as excited to see a rescue team, announced to them that he was completely naked, having shed his clothes to tread water more easily throughout the day.
“Do you think you’ll go on a cruise ship again?” Pilgrim asked.
“Yeah, I will. I ain’t gonna let it discourage me that much. I might not get within 10 foot of the rails, but I’ll definitely be open to going on another cruise, ’cause I really didn’t get to go on this one,” Grimes concluded.
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