Baby Rescued at Sea Returns to San Diego

By R. Stickney, Bridget Naso, Liberty Zabala and Christina London
|  Thursday, Apr 10, 2014  |  Updated 10:37 AM EDT
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Air national guardsmen and sailors are sharing details of a harrowing rescue to save a family stranded at sea. NBC 7 military report Bridget Naso explains why the rescue was such a challenge.

Air national guardsmen and sailors are sharing details of a harrowing rescue to save a family stranded at sea. NBC 7 military report Bridget Naso explains why the rescue was such a challenge.

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Baby Lyra Taken to Medical Facility

The Kaufman family is back on dry land. The family stranded at sea arrived at NAS North Island Wednesday morning. Even though the family was safe, the job of the Guardian Angels who rescued the family wasn’t over yet. NBC 7’s Liberty Zabala explains.

Stranded Sailing Family En Route to U.S.

After being rescued by the crew of San Diego-based USS Vandegrift, the Kaufman family is headed back to the United States. The family captured national headlines after their 1-year-old baby got sick during their attempt to sail around the world. NBC 7’s Liberty Zabala spoke with Charlotte Kaufman’s sister just as she touched down in San Diego.
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A baby, her parents and her sister who were rescued at sea in a complex military operation were back on dry land after sailing into San Diego Bay Wednesday, Navy officials confirmed.

The San Diego-based USS Vandegrift arrived at NAS North Island carrying the 1-year-old who was in serious need of medical attention while sailing across the Pacific Ocean with her family.

Lyra Kaufman was aboard a 36-foot sailboat off the coast of Mexico when she developed diarrhea, vomiting and a rash.

Her parents called the U.S. Coast Guard Thursday for help. That call launched a rescue effort involving members of the California Air National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing and spawned a national debate over the idea of parents taking children on journeys across open oceans.

The Vandegrift docked on North Island just before 10 a.m., ahead of a scheduled afternoon arrival at Naval Base San Diego.  

A Navy official confirmed to NBC 7 that the family disembarked from the ship Wednesday but could not reveal where the family was headed next.

The 129th Rescue Wing took Lyra and her family to an undisclosed medical facility, according to a Guardian Angels spokesperson. The four Guardian Angels who were with the Kaufmans for six days have now returned to Moffett Air Field.

Last Thursday, Lyra fell seriously ill just as the family’s boat, the Rebel Heart, lost its communication and steering abilities.

That night, the California Air National Guard dropped four pararescuemen from a plane into the ocean. Those men climbed aboard the Rebel Heart to stabilize Lyra.

”It couldn’t motor underway, so they were dead in the water," said Capt. Lejon Boudreaux with the 129th Rescue Wing. "Ten-knot winds and they were just drifting through the seas bobbing up and down, which proved to be challenging for my guys."

"It’s a 36-foot sailboat. You’ve got eight people living on there. Quarters were really tight. Waves were coming over the boat. They were soaking wet the entire time," Boudreaux said describing the conditions.

The crew of Navy frigate USS Vandegrift contacted the sailboat around 4 p.m. Saturday 900 miles from land, then stayed approximately five miles from the family's boat while they worked out a rescue plan.

Around 8 a.m. Sunday, Vandegrift sailors used an inflatable boat to bring the infant, the family and the four pararescuemen aboard the ship. Their sailboat had to be sunk for safety reasons.

“The infant and 3-year-old were in a harness with the pararescuemen. We did that for safety reasons. We had them cross over," Vandegrift sailor Andrew Habib described. "The children were in good spirits.”

Habib said he was glad to be part of the challenging rescue.

"The family was very humble," he said. "It looked like they had a sense of relief."

Eric and Charlotte Kaufman set sail two weeks ago from Mexico with 1-year-old Lyra and her 3-year-old sibling on a mission to sail around the world.

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