By ABC NEWS via GOOD MORNING AMERICA The California parents of a 1-year-old girl who fell ill on a sailing trip thanked military crews who rescued them from their stalled vessel on Sunday and defended their decision to sail with young children.
Eric and Charlotte Kaufman started across the Pacific in March with Cora, 3, and Lyra, 1, aboard their 36-foot sailboat, the Rebel Heart, planning on traveling around the world. But Lyra developed a fever and a rash covering most of her body and wasn’t responding to medications.
After their sailboat lost steering and communications about 900 miles off the coast of Mexico, the Kaufmans sent a satellite call for help to the U.S. Coast Guard.
A four-person para-rescue team parachuted into the Pacific Ocean to reach the baby girl, stabilizing Lyra before the family was transferred to the USS Vandegrift.
The San Diego couple released a statement from aboard the USS Vandegrift defending their decision to travel with their children.
"We understand there are those who question our decision to sail with our family, 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 statement said.
"The ocean is one of the greatest forces of nature, and it always has the potential to overcome those who live on or near it. We are proud of our choices and our preparation.”
Their trip immediately sparked criticism on the family’s Facebook page. One person called them “irresponsible parents.” Another wrote, “How selfish ... to jeopardize the lives of their tiny and helpless children.”
Charlotte Kaufman's sister, Sariah English, defended the couple’s plan.
“I’ve been on their boat, I’ve spent time with them and it’s a great thing for those girls to experience,” English said.
Authorities decided to sink the Rebel Heart because it was taking on water.