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Bay Area rescue team working to save sick baby on sailboat

A joint rescue mission involving the Coast Guard, Navy, and 129th rescue wing out of Moffett Field will help save a sick baby.
April 4, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Bay Area-based Air National Guard team is on a rescue mission -- trying to save a sick baby on a sailboat drifting off the coast of Mexico. The little girl's health is failing. Time and distance are critical factors. The sailboat is hundreds of miles off Puerto Vallarta and the rescue efforts are being coordinated at Moffet Field, with teams from San Diego to Mexico.

A rescue team is already on board the sailboat and is reporting the baby is in stable condition. The boat, however, is damaged and unable to get back to land. So a complex rescue operation is underway.

The Kaufman family left on the first leg of its around the world voyage three weeks ago. On board the Rebel Heart sailboat are Eric and Charlotte Kaufman and daughters Cora and Lyra.

This week, however, 1-year-old Lyra developed a rash over much of her body. She was vomiting and had diarrhea and she was not responding to an antibiotic the family had on hand.

That's when the 129th rescue wing was called in. They have sent a pararescue team to the scene. After parachuting into the Pacific, they deployed an inflatable zodiac, which reached the sailboat Thursday night.

"We have a doctor, a flight surgeon, that's on call right now in Cabo San Lucas, and through their sat phone they can call her in case they need anything that's more advanced than just simple paramedic," combat rescue officer Maj. Hank Lutz said.

The coordination center at Moffett Field has positioned two helicopters in Mexico to airlift the family and the pararescue team.

"We'll get the entire family out with the medics," combat rescue officer Maj. Hank Lutz explained. "The medics will follow the child and parents all the way to the hospital. They will never leave their side, and they will not pass them on to anybody other than a higher level medical than they are themselves."

The mission is so far out at sea -- the longest distance the 129th can remember doing a rescue -- that special aircraft are needed to refuel the helicopters while airborne. It will take 14 hours for the helicopters to get from Cabo San Lucas to the scene and back. It is a high-risk mission.

"With the swells out there, it's moving around a lot more so it's not a stable platform to hoist off of," helicopter instructor pilot Maj. Nathan Nowaski said.

Relatives of the Kaufman family in San Diego are worried about baby Lyra's condition.

"I just want to make sure the baby's OK and find out what was wrong with the baby, because that's, I mean, she's one and I'm a mom, so my instinct is just make sure the baby's OK," sister-in-law April Moriset said.

The Navy ship is expected to arrive either Saturday night or Sunday morning. Then it should be just a few more hours before Lyra can be airlifted to the mainland.

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