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California Family Rescued by U.S. Coast Guard, California Air National Guard, and U.S. Navy

What started as the urgent medical treatment of a one-year-old girl in a sailboat about 900 nautical miles off of Mexico’s Pacific coast concluded April 6 with the rescue of the entire family and four California Air National Guard pararescue jumpers (PJs).

Four PJs from the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing parachuted into the Pacific from an MC-130P Combat Shadow after a flight of more than five-hours. After making their way to the Rebel Heart aboard a Zodiac inflatable boat, the PJs joined the American couple and their two children.

The PJs were aboard the 36-foot sailboat Rebel Heart in response to a call on April 3 for assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard after the Coast Guard received a satellite phone distress call from the family. The one-year-old, identified as Lyra Kaufman, was suffering from a life-threatening illness that required urgent medical treatment. In response, four PJs from the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing parachuted into the Pacific from an MC-130P Combat Shadow after a flight of more than five-hours. After making their way to the Rebel Heart aboard a Zodiac inflatable boat, the PJs joined the American couple and their two children. “They took vitals and stabilized the child,” said 2nd Lt. Roderick Bersaminam, a spokesman for the 129th Rescue Wing. “The family is in good spirits.”

MC-130P Combat Shadow

An MC-130P Combat Shadow assigned to the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing, drops pararescuemen with the 131st Rescue Squadron for training above Moffett Federal Airfield, Calif., June 2, 2013. Pararescuemen with the 129th Rescue Wing performed a similar jump to reach a sick infant aboard a sailboat 900 nautical miles off of Mexico’s Pacific coast. California Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Pharr

Charlotte and Eric Kaufman, Lyra, and their 3-year-old daughter Cora, were in the midst of a round-the-world voyage aboard the Rebel Heart. Compounding the problem, just as Lyra’s condition worsened, the sailboat lost steering and communications in the choppy Pacific.

Charlotte and Eric Kaufman, Lyra, and their 3-year-old daughter Cora, were in the midst of a round-the-world voyage aboard the Rebel Heart.

Original plans called for the infant to be hoisted aboard an HH-60G Pave Hawk and to be flown to a medical facility for further treatment. Those plans changed with choppy seas and the U.S. Navy’s dispatch of the frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) to assist in the rescue.

Rebel Heart

The 36-foot sailboat Rebel Heart rides in rough seas as the family and pararescuemen from the California Air National Guard are taken aboard the USS Vandegrift’s small boat. The inflatable Zodiac, used by the pararescuemen to reach the Rebel Heart, can be seen at the stern of the sailboat. U.S. Navy photo

On April 6, sailors from the Vandegrift transferred the family and the PJs to the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate via the ship’s small boat. The Vandegrift is now en route to San Diego, Calif. As of April 7, Lyra’s illness was still undiagnosed, but symptoms included a fever and a rash covering most of her body. According to the Associated Press, the Rebel Heart, which was judged by authorities to be taking on too much water, was being sunk.

On April 6, sailors from the Vandegrift transferred the family and the PJs to the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate via the ship’s small boat.

A statement on behalf of the Kaufman family thanked the rescuers and sought to explain the family’s motivations for embarking on an attempt to circumnavigate the world in a sailboat with two small children:

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.

By

Steven Hoarn is the Editor/Photo Editor for Defense Media Network. He is a graduate of...