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Navy warship reaches sailboat carrying ill toddler

U.S. Navy Ship Reaches Sick Toddler Aboard Stranded Sailboat
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A U.S. Navy warship reached a crippled sailboat hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast and was preparing Sunday to complete the rescue of a sick 1-year-old girl.

The transfer of the child from the 36-foot boat to the ship was expected to start around dawn, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena said Sunday.

"Sometime this morning as soon as they get some light they are going to take the child off the boat and bring her aboard the naval vessel," Bena told The Associated Press.

A small boat will be used to carry out the operation and it will be safer during daylight, especially since the child's condition has stabilized, the spokesman said.

The girl's family - parents and a 3-year-old sister - were about 900 miles off Mexico on a cruise around the world when they sent a satellite ping for help to the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday about her illness.

A family member said the Rebel Heart is owned by a San Diego couple, Charlotte and Eric Kaufman, whose daughter, Lyra, had developed a fever and a rash covering most of her body and who wasn't responding to medications.

The California Air National Guard dispatched four rescuers, who parachuted into the water and reached the disabled vessel. The team was able to stabilize the girl and pointed the sailboat, which does not have steering or communication abilities, toward Mexico, the 129th Rescue Wing said in a statement.

The rescuers stayed aboard the Rebel Heart and are keeping watch on the ill child until the Navy frigate transfers them to shore. The girl still requires medical treatment, and the rescuers planned to stay with her until she reaches a hospital, the statement said.

USS Vandegrift churned through the Pacific at nearly 30 mph to reach the stricken boat, officials said. Bena said he wasn't sure if it arrived late Saturday or early Sunday.

The Vandegrift is equipped with an inflatable boat and a helicopter, but no decision has been made yet about the mode of transfer until officials can evaluate the sea conditions and other factors, said Lt. Lenaya Rotklein of the U.S. Third Fleet.

The Kaufmans, along with Lyra and 3-year-old Cora, were two weeks into a journey bound for the South Pacific islands and eventually New Zealand.

Before the family left, Lyra had salmonella poisoning, but doctors cleared her to travel after she was healthy again, said Charlotte Kaufman's sister, Sariah Kay English.

English initially was in daily email contact with the family but realized something was wrong when the communication stopped several days ago.

English said she was told the vessel took on water every time the motor was turned on. It's now slowly moving using only the sails.

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

But English said the couple were 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 said the couple made a network of friends who traveled around the globe with children and always stocked the sailboat with more food than they need.

"They were very overcautious. They're not new at sailing," English said. Unfortunately, "sickness sometimes happens."

Join the discussion

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Cheryl April 06 2014 at 11:09 AM

Eric Kaufman is a Coast Guard-licensed captain " He called in his buddies. Good training for his buddies I guess. What I don't understand is the child was sick before they left and the Doctors cleared her to travel, yet she needed to be rescued due to the same ailment she was diagnosed with before. Perhaps not ready to be cleared medically. BTW-too much hate on the posts people.

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1 reply
poll100 Cheryl April 06 2014 at 11:13 AM

Doctors are not god. Common sense is. When you have a sick child stay home.

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fastmoving2 April 07 2014 at 12:56 AM

These people are absolutely crazy! Why would parents take babies out to sea in a 35 ft boat? They were a thousand miles from land and not only did the child become ill they also had a boat with no steering and communication abilities and it was taking on water. Why would you risk the lives of your innocent small children? Neither one of these idiotic so called parents have an ounce of common sense between them. Thank God for the Air National Guard and their valiant efforts. I hope the government hits these parents with a bill and a half. Perhaps, they'll learn a lesson then.

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Equalizer April 07 2014 at 1:03 AM

These parents are idiots. They should risk their own stupid lives, but not the baby's.
They belong in jail.

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ggl8028 April 06 2014 at 10:25 AM

Light a '406' and see who comes for you. The USCG.

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1 reply
coopski1 ggl8028 April 06 2014 at 10:52 AM

True. But in this case it was the Navy.

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c21lompoc April 07 2014 at 1:13 AM

sorry, but I agree - they're nuts, and I trust they will be paying the rescue bill. After all, apparently they are sufficiently financially secure enough to be able to make such a trip in the first place.

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1 reply
Dolly c21lompoc April 07 2014 at 1:35 AM

II fully agree tsx papyers money

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sondravvag April 07 2014 at 1:21 AM

This is another one of those stupid stupid parent stories who endanger their children by doing things that should be done WITHOUT infants along. Then...........taxpayers have to pay the freight to rescue them and nurse them back to health. Very dump people who don't deserve to have children. What kind of people would attempt a voyage such as that with two little ones??? Very selfish stupid parents.

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Lyra Sue April 06 2014 at 10:23 AM

I hope all is resolved quickly for your family. I share a kindred spirit with your daughter. My name also is Lyra. I will hold you all imp my thoughts and prayers.

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1 reply
Roberta Lyra Sue April 06 2014 at 10:34 AM

It is good to read a post that is not condemning the parents but wishing them good luck.

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Sharon Bias April 06 2014 at 12:46 PM

Firm proof that you can find a little vessel in a big ocean if they have working emergency equipment, and that help can get there fairly quickly. As to bringing a child along on a boat, anyone who has watched the Coast Guard show on the Weather Channel will tell you it's mostly adults who need rescue. I would have waited another 2 weeks AFTER the doctor cleared the sick child before departing. That's when most complications show up.

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Judith April 06 2014 at 12:46 PM

From my perspective, these parents are absolutely irresponsible in making a decision to travel around the world with a 1 year old and a 3 year old. Too many things can happen, as noted in the 1 year old becoming sick. Wonder what it cost, to once again rescue someone who didn't have enough common sense to leave the children at home?

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gordytwo7 April 06 2014 at 12:37 PM

This is the same family that openly admitted and bragged about pumping their raw sewage from their boat that they lived on into San Diego Bay for years. These people are very irresponsible.

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