SAN DIEGO -- Two critically injured Chinese sailors are set to arrive tonight at the UC San Diego Medical Center burn unit after being rescued by the U.S. Air Force more than 1,000 miles at sea off Mexico.
The two were aboard a Chinese boat that apparently exploded and sank. Six sailors are believed missing. A Venezuelan fishing vessel rescued 11 sailors from a raft. Four were badly burned; two of the four died.
The two survivors, suffering severe burns, were airlifted from the Venezuelan vessel after the 563rd Rescue Group from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., led a rescue mission.
Rescuers parachuted into the sea on Saturday to reach the Venezulean vessel and provide emergency aid. On Sunday, the two sailors were taken by helicopter to Cabo San Lucas in preparation for being airlifted to San Diego.
Two fixed-wing aircraft and three helicopters were part of the rescue mission. The Arizona Air National Guard provided refueling aircraft.
"We are prepared to rescue anyone, anytime, anywhere," said Col. Sean Choquette, commanding officer of the 563rd.