- The Washington Times - Monday, May 5, 2014

Airmen from the 563rd Rescue Group joined with other U.S. Air Force rescuers to parachute into the Pacific Ocean and rescue Chinese sailors who were adrift when their raft sank.

Two of the sailors were badly burned, and rescuers were taking them to a nearby California hospital, The Associated Press reported. Two others were already dead and six have gone missing, emergency responders said, AP reported.

U.S. authorities were alerted to the situation when the craft sent out a distress signal, AP reported.

Maj. Sarah Schwennesen from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base said the rescue operations involved U.S. airmen parachuting into the water and then working hard to navigate inflatable boats to reach the vessel, which hailed from Venezuela, AP reported.

The distance that U.S. officials had to travel to reach the sailors proved the biggest challenge, she said, in the AP report. The crew had to fly about six hours over the ocean, and that required the dispatch of a refueling aircraft from Arizona Air National Guard in Phoenix, Maj. Schwennesen said, AP reported.

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

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