US warship rescues sick baby stranded in Pacific off Mexico

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 April, 2014, 4:45am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 April, 2014, 4:45am

An American family sailing across the Pacific Ocean had to be rescued by the US military yesterday after their one-year-old daughter became severely ill.

The USS Vandegrift warship reached their crippled 11-metre yacht hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast.

The family - the girl, her parents and her sister - were about 1,450 kilometres off Mexico on a cruise around the world when they sent a satellite "ping" for help to the US coastguard on Thursday.

San Diego couple Charlotte and Eric Kaufman became alarmed when daughter Lyra developed a fever and a rash covering most of her body and failed to respond to medication.

The California Air National Guard sent four rescuers, who parachuted into the water and reached the disabled vessel, called Rebel Heart.

The team was able to stabilise the girl and pointed the yacht, which does not have steering or communication abilities, towards Mexico, the 129th Rescue Wing said.

The girl still required medical treatment and the rescuers planned to stay with her until she reached a hospital, the rescue wing added.

USS Vandegrift churned through the Pacific at nearly 48 km/h to reach the stricken boat, officials said.

The Kaufmans, along with Lyra and three-year-old Cora, were two weeks into a journey bound for the South Pacific islands and then eventually for New Zealand.

Before the family left, Lyra had salmonella poisoning. But doctors cleared her to travel, said Charlotte Kaufman's sister, Sariah Kay English.

English initially was in daily e-mail contact with the family, but realised something was wrong when communications stopped several days ago.

English said she was told the vessel took on water every time the motor was turned on. It is now slowly moving using only the sails.

When her sister first mentioned plans to sail with two young children, English recalled: "I thought it was nuts."

But English said the couple were always careful. Eric Kaufman is a coastguard-licensed captain who introduced sailing to Charlotte Kaufman during one of their early dates.

"They were not going into this blind. I knew they were doing this wisely," English said.

Reuters, Associated Press