'Rogue waves' prompt dramatic rescue after fishing boat with 8 aboard sinks in Hawaii

Eight men were rescued Sunday hundreds of miles off the coast of Hawaii after a pair of rogue waves struck a fishing boat and caused it to sink.

The Coast Guard said in a news release the 61-foot fishing vessel, Princess Hawaii, was over 400 miles northeast of Hawaii's Big Island when it ran into trouble around 11:23 a.m., at which time an emergency position indicating radio beacon alert was received.

An aircrew was launched at 3 p.m., and a flare and lift raft were spotted from a HC-130 Hercules aircraft a little more than 2 hours later.

"The aircrew reported they located the Princess Hawaii mostly submerged with only the stern above the waterline," the Coast Guard said.

A Coast Guard aircrew located the Princess Hawaii mostly submerged with only the stern above the waterline hundreds of miles off Hawaii on Sunday.

A Coast Guard aircrew located the Princess Hawaii mostly submerged with only the stern above the waterline hundreds of miles off Hawaii on Sunday. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

After confirming all crewmembers were accounted for, the Coast Guard said the air crew remained on scene until the 73-foot fishing vessel Commander, which was fishing nearby, arrived on scene just before 11 p.m. to rescue the crew from the lifeboat.

The owner of the Princess Hawaii told the Associated Press on Tuesday that two massive rogue waves hit the boat, swamping it and forcing the crew to abandon ship.

One wave hit the back of the of the 61-foot fishing vessel, and another hit the side, Loc Nguyen said.

"It was so big, they've never seen that before," he told the AP. There was "too much water on the top and it went down."

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Nguyen said the fishing crew had already set about 15 miles of line when the waves crashed, knocking five workers into the water. The three other members of the crew were inside, and were able to deploy the vessel's life raft.

An HC-130 Hercules aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point located a life raft with eight people aboard from the fishing vessel Princess Hawaii.

An HC-130 Hercules aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point located a life raft with eight people aboard from the fishing vessel Princess Hawaii. (U.S. Coast Guard)

The boat owner told the AP he was "very happy" when he talked to the survivors and heard there were no injuries.

"I don't care very much about my boat," Nguyen said. "I lost money, OK. But if someone was dead or something, I would feel bad all my life."

Rogue waves are "extremely rare," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website, but there are known causes of the phenomenon.

"Rogues, called 'extreme storm waves' by scientists, are those waves which are greater than twice the size of surrounding waves, are very unpredictable, and often come unexpectedly from directions other than prevailing wind and waves," NOAA says.

Swells can travel at different speeds across the ocean, and as they pass through one another they can create "large, towering waves that quickly disappear."

When waves caused by storms go against the normal current, very big waves can also form in the open ocean.

"Extreme waves developed in this fashion tend to be longer lived," the NOAA says.

The Commander, with the eight crew members on board, is scheduled to arrive in Oahu on Friday, according to the Coast Guard.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.