.The crew of the guided-missile destroyer Ross saved three mariners from a burning Turkish vessel in the Sea of Marmara on Tuesday, 6th Fleet officials reported.

The rescue operation began suddenly late in the morning while the Arleigh Burke-class warship was sailing south from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

Lookouts spotted a tower of smoke rising from a small vessel and Ross launched a small boat crew with two search-and-rescue swimmers and a corpsman to render aid, according to the prepared statement from the Italy-based 6th Fleet.

They saved three mariners, but also recovered two of their dead crew members.

“In accordance with international law of the sea and maritime custom, the U.S. Navy assists mariners in distress, just as any other mariner would," said the destroyer’s commanding officer, Cmdr. J. D. John, in the statement. “This demonstrates the multi-mission capability of Ross and our ability to respond rapidly to any situation.”

The Turkish mariners were brought aboard Ross and received emergency medical care while U.S. watchstanders coordinated with Turkey’s Coast Guard Command to transfer the survivors ashore, 6th Fleet added.

To keep shipping traffic away from the medevac, a flotilla of Turkish patrol craft fanned out around Ross. The U.S. crew then lowered the rescued mariners into a Turkish patrol boat that took them to medical care ashore.

Black Sea tensions escalated in 2014, when Russia occupied and then annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Washington routinely sends warships into the region as a message to Moscow that U.S. forces will continue to ply the waters, consistent with international law such as the Montreux Convention.

Forward-deployed at Naval Station Rota in Spain, Ross entered the Black Sea on Feb. 23 on its 10th patrol, becoming the first U.S. warship to visit those waters in 2020.

Ross also was the last U.S. warship to enter Black Sea during a December patrol. It marked the eighth time a U.S. warship visited the Black Sea in 2019.

The destroyer arrived in Varna, Bulgaria, on Feb. 27 for a scheduled port visit.

Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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