Burned Sailors Rescued at Sea Arrive for Treatment in San Diego

The fishing boat got close enough to shore Monday for helicopters to hoist the injured sailors

By Sherene Tagharobi and R. Stickney
|  Tuesday, May 6, 2014  |  Updated 9:26 AM PDT
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Shipwreck Survivors to Be Treated in San Diego

Steven Luke

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Shipwreck Survivors to Be Treated in San Diego

Chinese sailors whose boat caught fire and sank in the Pacific Ocean are on their way to San Diego Monday for medical care. NBC 7's Sherene Tagharobi reports.
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Chinese sailors whose boat caught fire and sank in the Pacific Ocean have arrived in San Diego Monday for medical care.

The sailors were discovered floating on a raft Friday and pulled to safety by the crew of a Venezuelan fishing boat. Four were badly burned, officials said. Only two survived those injuries.

Rescue teams with the U.S. Air Force and U.S Coast Guard worked together to bring the surviving burn victims to the U.S.

Maj. Sarah Schwennesen at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base said airmen from the 563rd Rescue Group parachuted into the water Saturday afternoon and used inflatable boats to reach the Venezuelan vessel, which is 1,100 nautical miles west of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Schwennesen said.

They treated the injured sailors Saturday and Sunday.

The fishing boat got close enough to shore Monday for helicopters to hoist the injured sailors and fly them to Cabo San Lucas.

From there, the sailors arrived at the Naval Air Station North Island around 7:45 p.m. Monday and were transported by ambulance to the UC San Diego Burn Unit in Hillcrest, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson told NBC 7.

Two sailors died and six were believed to be missing after their fishing vessel sank.

The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) received a request for assistance around 5 p.m. Friday.

The 563rd Rescue Group (RQG) deployed two Combat King II aircraft, three HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters and 10 Guardian Angel personnel, with 38 Airmen from the 48th, 79th and 55th Rescue Squadrons (RQS).

The distance required to reach the sailors has been the most challenging, Schwennesen said.

Because of an estimated 11-hour flight that included flying over miles of ocean, a refueling aircraft was dispatched from the Arizona Air National Guard in Phoenix.

The Air Force posted a picture of the in-air refueling on its Instagram account. 

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