Charter fishing boat skipper Mike Koesterer spotted an “orange flash” Saturday night on the ocean south of San Diego, California, reported KGTV.
As he steered his 42-foot boat, named the Time Machine, closer to a blazing fishing boat, he and his crew began to spot people in the water calling out for help, Koesterer told the station.
“We thought it might be a few people,” he said, reported KGTV. “But we kept on counting and counting and counting.”
Based in San Diego, the Time Machine pulled 15 people from the ocean, including two with serious burns, in the 9:30 p.m. Saturday incident, reported The San Diego Union-Tribune.
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Three people who were aboard the burning vessel, a 25- to 30-foot fishing boat from Mexico, are missing, U.S. Coast Guard officials told the Los Angeles Times.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Mexican navy conducted a search Sunday for the missing people, according to the publication.
They are presumed dead, reported KSWB. The fire took place about 30 miles south of Point Loma in San Diego.
“All you saw was a boat on fire and people screaming,” Reeve Koesterer said, according to the station. “It was nerve-wracking and scary. If we weren’t there at the time, those people wouldn’t be alive.”
He helped pull the survivors from the water, including the two with burn injuries, who were airlifted by Coast Guard helicopter from the Time Machine to a hospital in critical condition, reported KSWB.
The other 12 survivors returned by boat to Ensenada, Mexico, reported KUSI.