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2 Chinese sailors dead, 6 missing after sinking, official says

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May 3, 2014: Airman 1st Class Franscisco Harper, left, and a pararescue airman survey the area as U.S. Air Force pararescue forces parachute into the Pacific Ocean to aid to two critically injured sailors aboard a Venezuelan fishing boat. (AP/U.S. Air Force)

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 Sunday.

Maj. Sarah Schwennesen said that a Venezuelan fishing boat reported finding 11 sailors floating in a raft 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 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 into Sunday morning.

The rescuers treated the sailors, who will be hoisted, along with the U.S. airmen, onto three helicopters 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, Schwennesen said. Because of an estimated six-hour flight that included flying over miles of ocean, a refueling aircraft was dispatched from the Arizona Air National Guard in Phoenix.

"The assistance of refueling by the 161st out of Phoenix was critical in providing faster care," Schwennesen said. "They could refuel over the Pacific Ocean rather than fly down to Mexico first."

The Venezuelan boat had sent out a request for help around 5 p.m. Friday, and it was received by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center.

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