PORT ANGELES, Wash. — The Coast Guard rescued three people from a burning vessel Tuesday evening five miles east of Port Angeles.

At approximately 6 p.m., watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound received a call from a distressed mariner reporting a 48-foot vessel on fire half of a mile offshore and five miles east of Port Angeles near Sequim. The three men aboard the vessel were reportedly unable to combat the fire and needing emergency assistance.

A Coast Guard 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew and an Air Station Port Angeles MH-65 rescue helicopter crew responded and were on scene at 6:15 p.m.

Two members of the RB-M boatcrew transferred the three distressed mariners from the burning vessel to the response boat before entering the engine room and attempting to extinguish the fire.

After using an extinguisher and water pump to suppress the fire, the RB-M boatcrew placed the 48-foot yacht in tow and began transiting toward Port Angeles for rendezvous with the local fire department. While en route, the fire re-flashed and the boatcrew was forced to break tow as the flames engulfed the burning vessel.

The boatcrew remained on scene to monitor and secure the area, given the potential hazard to local vessel traffic. The yacht burned to the waterline and sank before the boatcrew transported the three rescued mariners to Boat Haven Marina. No fuel sheen was observed in the water upon departure from the scene of the sunken vessel.

"The fast action to call for help was essential to their survival," said Petty Officer Alexander Polyak, watchstander at Sector Puget Sound command center. "Having a reliable means of communication, appropriate for your location and distance off shore, can mean the difference between life and death. We encourage all mariners to not only have cell phones, but make sure you have a VHF-FM marine-band radio to ensure communication capability in the event of an emergency."

Medical personnel examined one of the mariners for potential smoke inhalation. No further injuries were reported.