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May 6, 2014 8:41 PM

DM airmen rescue Chinese sailors off Baja coast

TUCSON - A group of Davis Monthan airmen are back home Tuesday after a rescue operation 1,100 miles off the coast of Mexico.

Airmen from the Air Force's 563rd Rescue Group saved two Chinese fisherman after their fishing boat exploded and sank in the fire. A Venezuelan fishing boat scooped up the lifeboat carrying 11 crew members and called for help Friday.

The Davis-Monthan airmen flew 9 hours getting to the Venezuelan ship. They parachuted into the water Saturday afternoon and used inflatable boats to reach the Venezuelan vessel.

Rescuers stabilized the burn victims before putting each into metal baskets Monday that were connected to two helicopters by a steel cable. Crews wrenched the baskets up to the flying aircraft, and rescuers loaded them on to the helicopters. They then flew to the closest Mexican city, Cabo San Lucas, where they were put on an aircraft and flown to Naval Station North Island in San Diego. They arrived around 7:30 p.m. Monday and were taken by ambulance to the hospital.

Officials say they still do not know what happened on the Chinese boat to cause the explosion.

The two bodies of the fishermen who died and seven others in good condition were put on a Chinese-flagged vessel to be taken to China.

U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard officials said neither of their branches was searching for the six fishermen believed to be missing, and they did not know who else would be looking.

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