SAN DIEGO — A family who was rescued at sea when their 1-year-old girl became seriously ill on their sailboat hundreds of miles off Mexico will not be charged for the massive rescue effort, government officials said Monday.
“The Coast Guard does not charge for search and rescue operations,” said Lt. Anna Dixon of the 11th Coast Guard District. “We don’t want people in trouble at sea to hesitate to call for help for fear they’ll be charged for assistance. Mariners assisting one another at sea is a both a time honored tradition and a requirement of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention of the International Maritime Organization.”
The Coast Guard coordinated the rescue operation for the Rebel Heart, but no Coast Guard vessels or aircraft took part. California Air National Guard aircraft and the Navy frigate USS Vandegrift are involved, but those agencies don’t plan to seek reimbursement for the operation, the Coast Guard said.
Meanwhile, 1-year-old Lyra Kaufman was being cared for by Navy doctors on the USS Vandegrift. The frigate was expected to arrive in San Diego with Lyra, her 3-year-old sister, Cora, and the girls’ parents, Eric and Charlotte Kaufman.
The parents contacted the Coast Guard Thursday morning saying they were about 900 miles from Cabo San Lucas and their daughter had been ill for several days and needed medical care. They said their sailboat, a Hans Christian 36, could not be steered.
The Coast Guard dispatched members of an Air National Guard unit operating out of Moffett Federal Airfield in the San Francisco Bay Area, and four members of the 129th Rescue Wing parachuted into the ocean, inflated a motorized boat and reached the 36-foot sailboat. They stayed with the family and stabilized the child’s condition.
The crew of the USS Vandegrift picked up the family and the four rescuers Sunday morning.
Maj. Mark Bomann of the Air National Guard said the infant’s prognosis is good.
“We’ve been quite pleased with her status. The family is exhausted, as one can imagine, but they’re out of any imminent danger or harm, which is what you’d worry about in a boat that may have problems,” he told reporters.
According to their blogs, the Kaufments left Mexico two weeks ago with plans to cross the Pacific. The family lives in San Diego. They left there in 2012 and were slowly making their way around the world.
In one of her earlier blog posts, dated October 2012, Charlotte addressed those who might question the wisdom of such an adventure. She wrote that the family was traveling with a satellite phone.
“Please remember, again, that we are competent adults who care about ourselves and our family. We’ve done a lot of research and preparation for this trip and would never purposefully put ourselves in harm’s way.
“Also remember that it is far, far more dangerous to drive every day on the freeway than it is to sail from San Diego to Mexico, or even around the world,” Charlotte said.