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Navy rescues family with sick baby from sailboat

Apr. 6, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Sailors from the frigate Vandegrift assist in the rescue of a family with a sick infant via the ship's small boat on April 6. The family and four Air National Guard pararescuemen were safely moved from the sailboat to Vandegrift.
Sailors from the frigate Vandegrift assist in the rescue of a family with a sick infant via the ship's small boat on April 6. The family and four Air National Guard pararescuemen were safely moved from the sailboat to Vandegrift. ()
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This undated image provided by Sariah English shows Eric and Charlotte Kaufman with their daughters, Lyra, 1, and Cora, 3. Rescuers have stabilized the condition Lyra, with her family on a crippled sailboat hundreds of miles off the coast of Mexico, and a U.S. Navy warship was headed toward the vessel, officials said Friday night. (Sariah English / AP)

SAN DIEGO — With their 1-year-old daughter improving after a U.S. Navy ocean rescue, her parents defended their decision to sail with two young children on a trip around the world aboard a 36-foot sailboat.

The child who fell ill during the voyage and her family were heading to San Diego aboard the warship where she can receive further medical treatment after their rescue Sunday from their stalled sailboat hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast.

“We understand there are those who question our decision to sail with our family, but please know that this is how our family has lived for seven years, and when we departed on this journey more than a year ago, we were then and remain today confident that we prepared as well as any sailing crew could,” the San Diego couple Eric and Charlotte Kaufman said in a statement from the frigate Vandegrift.

“The ocean is one of the greatest forces of nature, and it always has the potential to overcome those who live on or near it. We are proud of our choices and our preparation,” the statement said.

The Kaufmans, their 1-year-old daughter Lyra and her 3-year-old sister, Cora, had started across the Pacific in March when the baby girl developed a fever and a rash covering most of her body and wasn’t responding to medications. They sent a satellite call for help to the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday after their 36-foot sailboat Rebel Heart lost steering and communication abilities about 900 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Four California Air National Guard members parachuted into the water and reached the boat Thursday night. The crew stabilized the girl, stayed by her side and then hopped on an inflatable boat with the family to board the USS Vandegrift.

The frigate was expected to arrive in San Diego midweek, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena said.

Authorities decided to sink the Rebel Heart because it was taking on water, Bena said.

Charlotte Kaufman’s sister, Sariah Kay English, posted on her Facebook page that the family took only what they could carry from the broken boat.

The Kaufmans said in the statement they were disappointed to lose their sailboat they called home.

It was still not immediately known what illness the girl may have had.

Before the family left for the trip, Lyra had salmonella poisoning, but doctors cleared her to travel after she was healthy again, English said.

When her sister first mentioned plans to sail with two young children, English recalled, “I thought it was nuts.”

But English said the couple was always careful. Eric Kaufman is a Coast Guard-licensed captain who introduced sailing to Charlotte Kaufman during one of their early dates.

“They were not going into this blind. I knew they were doing this wisely,” English said.

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