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Parents of sick child thank rescuers, defend their parenting

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Parents of sick child rescued from crippled sailboat off Mexican coast said child is doing well
Parents proud of choices and preparation of year-long sailing trip around the world with two small children

The parents of a sick baby rescued from her family's crippled sailboat hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast said late Sunday that the child is doing well and "her medical condition continues to improve."

Eric and Charlotte Kaufman issued an email statement while aboard the Navy frigate Vandegrift, which took the parents, their ailing 1-year-old daughter and their 3-year-old daughter onboard at daybreak Sunday.

The parents thanked the California Air National Guard, Navy and Coast Guard for rescuing them when their younger daughter, Lyra, became ill and their sailboat, the Rebel Heart, became disabled about 1000 miles from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

After the family was taken aboard the Vandegrift, the 36-foot sailboat was scuttled to prevent it from being a hazard to navigation. Holes were drilled below the waterline on the vessel and it quickly sank.

The Vandegrift is expected to return to its homeport in San Diego by midweek. The current decision is for the family to remain aboard. Earlier, some consideration was given to airlifting Lyra to San Diego for care.

The parents, in a statement, sought to answer criticism that taking two small children on a year-long sailing trip around the world was not smart parenting.

"We understand there are those who question our decision to sail with our family," the Kaufmans said in the statement. "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. 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," they said.

The Vandegrift has two Navy corpsmen aboard, officials said. Four rescue specialists from the California Air National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing also were taken aboard the Vandegrift.

The four, trained in emergency medical techniques, have been with the child since late Thursday. Lyra is now stable after experiencing a high fever and severe rash, officials said.

The rescue began Thursday when the family sent a distress message via satellite phone to the Coast Guard that the child was sick and the sailboat disabled.

By late Thursday, the four para-rescuemen had plunged into the water from a fixed-wing aircraft and were on the sailboat, said 2nd Lt. Roderick B. Bersamina, spokesman for the 129th Rescue Wing based at Moffett Federal Airfield in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The child was treated with medication, officials said. The family was on a worldwide trip when the child got sick and the sailboat lost its communication and navigation capability.

The Vandegrift was on a routine mission off the Southern California coast and was redirected to the location of the drifting sailboat, arriving around 1 a.m. Sunday. The family and the four para-rescue specialists were brought aboard the frigate at daybreak.

 

tony.perry@latimes.com
Twitter: @LATsandiego

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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