SAN DIEGO (AP) — Two Chinese fishermen recovering in California are badly burned but alert and attempting to communicate after an explosion on their vessel far off Mexico's coast.
The two were in critical condition in San Diego a day after the U.S. Air Force flew them there, but were doing remarkably well considering they spent days on a ship with their injuries, in pain and unable to get full treatment, their doctor said Tuesday.
"You can imagine the amount of traumatic stress that those individuals go through," said Dr. Raul Coimbra, chief of trauma surgery at the regional burn center at the University of California, San Diego. "They've been injured several days ago. They were in the ocean for several days. So obviously there is a high degree of stress and pain because those injuries went untreated for so many days, but as best as I can describe, they're alert, they're awake, they're trying to connect with us, and I think that they will do well here."
The men — who asked not to be identified — were being evaluated to see if they require surgery or can go home within the week. Doctors found no trauma injuries, and the burns are not life-threatening, Coimbra said, adding that they cover the upper and lower extremities. One man is about 20 percent covered in burns, and the other is about 8 percent covered. He said the men, who are in their 30s, also suffered injuries from smoke inhalation.
The two were among 17 crew members believed aboard a Chinese fishing vessel that caught fire after an explosion and sank about 1,100 miles off Mexico's Baja peninsula. Two men died, six are missing and seven others were rescued in good condition. A Venezuelan fishing boat spotted a life raft carrying 11 Chinese crew members — including the two who later died — and the two injured men were hoisted from the vessel Monday.
U.S. pilots flew for nine hours over the Pacific Ocean to recover the fishermen. 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.