Rescued baby 'stable' aboard USS Vandegrift; Coast Guard won't charge family
By Tony Perry | Los Angeles Times | Published: April 7, 2014
SAN DIEGO — The sick baby rescued from a crippled sailboat hundreds of miles at sea is in stable condition aboard the frigate Vandegrift, which is set to return to its home port here Wednesday, officials announced Monday afternoon.
The 1-year-old girl was suffering from a high fever and a severe rash when her parents made a distress call Thursday to the Coast Guard.
By Thursday night, four men from the California Air National Guard trained as paramedics had parachuted into the ocean and were aboard the sailboat.
The girl, her 3-year-old sister and their parents, Eric and Charlotte Kaufman, were taken aboard the Vandegrift at daybreak Sunday. The Kaufmans’ 36-foot sailboat, the Rebel Heart, was sunk to keep it from being a hazard to navigation.
Despite a clamor among some in the public, the Coast Guard announced Monday it will not be charging the Kaufmans for the cost of the complex search and rescue mission.
The Coast Guard does not charge for such missions, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Lt. Anna Dixon.
“We don’t want people in trouble at sea to hesitate to call for help for fear they’ll be charged for assistance,” Dixon said. Mariners assisting others in peril is a “time-honored tradition” and a requirement of international maritime law, she added.
The Kaufmans were on an around-the-world trip when 1-year-old Lyra became sick about 1,000 miles from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
The parents, in a statement issued Sunday from the Vandegrift, sought to answer criticism that taking two small children on a yearlong sailing trip was not smart parenting.
“We understand there are those who question our decision to sail with our family,” the statement said. “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 Vandegrift was on a routine mission off the Southern California coast and was redirected to the location of the drifting sailboat.
The guided-missile frigate USS Vandegrift on a patrol in the Gulf of Thailand with Royal Cambodian Navy patrol craft, Oct. 24, 2012. The Vandegrift was called into rescue service, April 5, 2014, when an American family’s sailboat became disabled in the Pacific and their baby became seriously ill.
Robert Clowney/U.S. Navy