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Former USM coach rescues 2 from burning boat (Updated11:15 a.m.)

Former USM head football coach Jeff Bower rescued two people from a burning boat this morning while out fishing in the water off Bay St. Louis.

Bower and a friend, Jerry Thigpen, were out fishing near Bayou La Croix about 8 a.m. when they saw a boat on fire.

Moving his 26-foot Triton closer, Bower and Thigpen pulled the two people from the 36-foot craft that was in flames.

"Five minutes later would have been too late," Bower told the Sun Herald. "Five minutes later, these people would have had to jump in the water."

Police and other first responders are on scene now.

"We just started seeing smoke and fire," said Linda Jordan, one of the victims. She works at USM-Gulf Park as a business advisor. "Jeff is a celebrity as a football coach, but he is our hero."

The boat burned all the way down to the waterline. Donnie Armes with the Department of Marine Resources said the fire stemmed from a mechanical problem.

Bower was the head coach at Southern Miss from 1990 to 2007.

Read more about this story in Saturday's Sun Herald.