Two Chinese sailors died and six are believed to be missing after their boat sank in the Pacific Ocean, an official at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base said on Sunday.
Maj. Sarah Schwennesen said that a Venezuelan fishing boat reported finding 11 sailors floating in a raft on Friday afternoon.
She said the Venezuelan crew said four sailors were badly burned. Two later died of their injuries.
Airmen from the 563rd Rescue Group parachuted into the water on Saturday afternoon and used inflatable boats to reach the Venezuelan vessel, which is 1,100 nautical miles west of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Maj. Schwennesen said. They treated the injured sailors Saturday and into Sunday morning.
The rescuers treated the sailors, who will be hoisted, along with the U.S. airmen, onto three helicopters on Sunday and flown to Cabo San Lucas. The injured pair will then be taken in a different aircraft to a burn unit in San Diego, accompanied by the airmen giving them care.
The distance required to reach the sailors has been the most challenging, Maj. Schwennesen said. Because of an estimated six-hour flight that included flying over miles of ocean, a refuelling aircraft was dispatched from the Arizona Air National Guard in Phoenix.