Eric and Charlotte Kaufman issued a statement from the USS Vandegrift Sunday evening thanking the Air National Guardsmen rescue team, the ship’s crew, the Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard personnel who rescued 1-year-old Lyra and the family from their 36-foot sailboat, called Rebel Heart, which authorities said had lost its steering and some of its radios.
“We are thankful to be safe and well,” Eric and Charlotte Kaufman said. “We are heading back home for the health of our daughter Lyra. She is doing well now and her medical condition continues to improve.”
The rescue mission was initiated on Thursday, after the family had spent about two weeks at sea on this leg of their trip around the world, because the stricken girl required treatment beyond the capabilities of the others on board, which included her parents and 3-year-old sister, Cora, according to 2nd Lt. Roderick B. Bersamina, spokesman for Air National Guard 129th Rescue Wing, and broadcast reports.
A Coast Guard flight surgeon recommended she be seen by medical personnel within two days, and an Air National Guardsmen rescue team parachuted into the ocean to board the Rebel Heart Thursday evening, according to Bersamina and the Coast Guard.
They remained with the family until the San Diego-based USS Vandegrift arrived about 1 a.m. and brought the girl, her family and the rescue team aboard the warship about 8 a.m.
The Kaufmans in their statement also addressed those who questioned their decision to sail with their young children, saying they were confident they had prepared as well as any crew could when they had departed more than a year ago and remained so today.
“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,” the Kaufmans said. “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 us and support us.”
Sarah English, Charlotte’s sister, flew into San Diego from New Mexico on Sunday and said she has no interest in questioning her loved ones’ decisions.
“I’m just going to hug them and love them and welcome them with open arms because that’s what they need right now,” said English.
Coast Guard officials said the girl and her family were in stable condition.
Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena said the family tentatively expected to arrive sometime Wednesday, but it was unclear where the ship would pull in or whether the family would be airlifted to shore.
English told Fox 5 the Navy sunk the family’s boat after the parents salvaged as many of their belongings as they could.
According to English, the family plans to rest a day or two before speaking to the media and then fly to New Mexico to stay with English for a time.