ANG 'guardian angel' team rescues girl stricken during Pacific voyage

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Julia Bates)

By Steve Marshall, National Guard Bureau / Published April 07, 2014

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) -- A California family and their extremely ill one-year-old daughter, stranded in choppy waters of the Pacific Ocean, was transferred safely aboard a Navy ship April 7, enroute to San Diego thanks to the efforts of an Air National Guard "Guardian Angel" team, according to a military spokesman.

The family boarded the USS Vandegrift after pararescuemen with the California Air National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing, who reached the boat late April 3, assessed and stabilized the baby.

The Air National Guard team from Moffett Federal Airfield in California, is comprised of three pararescuemen and a combat rescue officer. According to 2nd Lt. Roderick Bersamino, the wing's public affairs oficer, the team flew in an MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft for the five and a half-hour flight before parachuting near the family's boat to begin rescue operations. Jumping in with a Zodiac boat and rucksacks filled with a full array of medical equipment, the Air National Guard team will stay with the family until they reach port in San Diego.

The ill girl, identified by the Associated Press as Lyra Kaufman, 1, was in stable condition aboard the Navy vessel. Sailors assisted her and her family aboard the ship the morning of April 6.

The family includes her sister, Cora, 3, and parents, Charlette and Eric Kaufman. The Kaufmans were attempting a round-the-world voyage on their 36-foot sailboat Rebel Heart, when the boat became disabled just as Lyra’s condition worsened.

As of April 7, authorities said they were still not sure what illness the little girl has. Her symptoms included fever and a rash over most of her body.

Because the sailboat was taking on so much water, authorities were sinking it, the AP reported.

The 129th Rescue Wing was alerted to the emergency by the Coast Guard, which received a satellite distress call from the Kaufmans after their vessel lost steering and communications about 900 nautical miles off the coast of Mexico.