Two lifeboats bounced through the waves, guided by panning searchlights. The Grand Princess followed emergency protocol and returned to the location where the passengers had fallen overboard. The ship then maneuvered around that location, gradually increasing the size of the search perimeter. Meanwhile, the Carnival Ecstasy, another cruise ship that had disembarked from Galveston moments before the Grand Princess, retraced the ship’s path to aid in the search.While the witness thought, wrongly, the male passenger was from the Coast Guard Academy, he noted, "The passenger displayed a keen knack for survival in the rough waters. He had removed his pants and knotted the legs in order to make an emergency flotation device."
At about 5 a.m., Perrin made another announcement. Passengers were reporting hearing distant screams, so the captain requested silence. All non-essential equipment was powered down, and the crew quietly waited for signs of life from the dark waters.
The first of the stranded passengers was found about 100 feet from the port side of the ship. Shields watched from his balcony on the 11th deck as the woman was rescued. Fortunately, she had only sustained minor injuries, including a few broken ribs.
The search proceeded in dramatic fashion. The side thrusters were engaged to disrupt the water on the port side of the vessel as the Coast Guard helicopter panned the dark waters with its spotlight. A Coast Guard jet could be heard circling overhead.
Again, passengers reported hearing the cries for help from the dark waters, this time from the starboard side of the ship. Perrin requested another period of silence. The helicopter circled to the opposite side of the ship and found the male passenger.
He'd removed his pants? Before or after falling overboard?