SAN DIEGO - U.S. sailors rescued a family with an ill 1-year-old baby from a sailboat that broke down hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast -- boarding them Sunday onto a San Diego-bound Navy ship so the girl could get medical treatment.
The baby girl, Lyra, was in stable condition at 8 a.m. Sunday when sailors helped her, her 3-year-old sister, Cora, and her parents, Charlotte and Eric Kaufman leave their sailboat and brought them aboard the USS Vandegrift.
The frigate was expected to arrive in San Diego midweek, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena said.
Eric and Charlotte Kaufman issued the following statement from aboard the USS Vandegrift late Sunday afternoon:
"First, we would like to express how grateful we are to the men and women of the Coast Guard, California Air National Guard and Navy who rescued our family, especially the pararescuemen and crew of USS Vandegrift. We are very thankful to be safe and well. We also appreciate all the concern, thoughts and prayers of everyone back home for the health of our daughter Lyra. She is doing well now, and her medical condition continues to improve.
"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 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, and while we are disappointed that we lost our sailboat and our home, we remain grateful for those who came to our aid and those family and friends who continue to encourage and support us.
The couple detailed their adventures in online posts. You can read about them by clicking here.
The Kaufmans left San Diego in 2012 with plans to sail around the world. Two weeks after pulling away from Mexico, Lyra developed a fever and a rash covering most of her body and wasn't responding to medications. After their 36-foot sailboat lost steering and communication abilities about 900 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, they sent a satellite call for help to the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday.
Four California Air National Guard members parachuted into the water and reached the boat Thursday night. The crew stabilized the girl and stayed by her side until the Navy frigate arrived at about 1 a.m. Sunday.
Sailors waited until daylight to move the family from their inoperable sailboat, "Rebel Heart," which authorities were in the process of sinking Sunday because it was taking on water, Bena said.
It was still not immediately known what illness the girl may have had.
In March, Charlotte posted a photo of Lyra and Cora at the doctor’s office. The post said Lyra had salmonella, bronchitis and an upper respiratory infection. Charlotte said she and Cora were also sick.
Charlotte Kaufman's sister, Sariah Kay English, said doctors cleared Lyra to travel after she was healthy again.
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.
English initially was in daily email contact with the family but realized something was wrong when the communication stopped several days ago. In one of the final posts, Eric said a storm did some damage to the boat.
In a blog post from 2013, Charlotte wrote: "We’ve pushed ourselves well beyond our comfort zones, we’ve made mistakes, and we have learned from them. Here’s to the next 12 months."