Finding Stranded Family a "Needle in a Haystack:" Crews

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC 7's Omari Fleming reports on the challenging and complex rescue of a San Diego-area family in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a sick 13-month-old baby. (Published Thursday, Apr 10, 2014)

    Members of the 129th Air Rescue Wing describe finding a baby aboard a 36-foot sailboat in the Pacific Ocean to finding "a needle in a haystack."

    Pictures show a military mission well done. One shows the Kaufman family in a RIB boat. Another shows the couple walking off USS Vandergrift at Naval Air Station North Island.

    Members of the 129th Air Rescue Wing parachuted into the ocean Thursday night to help treat the Kaufman's direly ill, one-year-old, daughter Lyra.

    "It was actually a needle in a haystack," said LCDR Allyn Uttecht. Finding the sailboat 900-miles off Mexico's coast just one of the many challenges.

    Navigating wind, rain and 5 to 7 foot swells made it almost too dangerous to attempt the rescue in the RIB boat.

    "It was like standing on top of a 6 foot ladder,” explained Boat Swain Mate Ian Gabriel. “Jump off that ladder, have a friend throw a bucket of salt water in your face and then rinse
    repeat."

    “At first we tried to pull in and hang on to the sailboat but it was rocking and rolling so much it wasn’t possible ," said Officer Chris Cheezem.

    With the boat swaying and water whipping him--rescue swimmer Andrew Habib helped pull the mother to safety first.

    Then the two children in harnesses. After they were safe on board the Vandergrift, the crew went back for the father and pararescuemen.

    One of the pararescuers told NBC 7, "They were surprised America would go that far to pick them up.“

    Pararescuers stayed with the family on board their troubled sail boat until the Vandergrift arrived Sunday morning.

    Father Eric Kaufman tweeted his appreciation upon arriving in San Diego: “The men and women of the Vandergrift are heroes. Words can't express my appreciation for the 129. The best of the best. “