FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A Gainesville family on a cruise is being praised for their heroic efforts, after the passengers sprang into action to help a man found drifting in the ocean for close to a day.
The rescue made international headlines for the man's survival, after the cruise ship worker fell overboard from the Norwegian Getaway on Saturday, survived in the ocean for 22 hours, and was rescued by another passing cruise ship.
Once the cruise ended, FOX 5 learned that some of the heroic passengers who helped save the man are actually from metro Atlanta.
The Savage family told FOX 5, no one back home believed them until the story hit the news. Kevin and Cody Savage told FOX 5, the ordeal began early Sunday afternoon on July 1 as the cruise ship was en route to Cozumel. The ship was 21 miles off the coast of Cuba when passengers spotted the man overboard.
"We're in the lobby and a lady came in off the deck and said, 'There's a man in the water,'" Kevin Savage said. "We could see the guy a couple hundred feet off the ship," he said.
The Savage family quickly sprung into action, throwing floatation devices into the water.
"I told my son, 'Grab a life ring and throw a life ring to him!'" Kevin Savage said. "And I went down and grabbed another life ring."
"They could use the rings as a marker to show where he was," Cody Savage said.
An hour later, after the ship turned around, rescue crews got the man out of the water, aboard the ship, and treated the 33-year-old. Cell phone video of the ordeal shared by other passengers shows cheers coming from witnesses on the ship.
The Savages told FOX 5 they received VIP treatment the rest of the way, from a meeting with the captain to special meals during the rest of their vacation.
"It was by the grace of God we saw him," Cody Savage said, believing divine intervention helped cruise ship passengers spot the man.