Family Likely Won't Pay for Sea Rescue: Coast Guard Official

Officials have no estimate yet on how much the maritime rescue cost

A San Diego family will most likely not have to pay for the extensive sea rescue of their sick 1-year-old daughter, a U.S. Coast Guard official said Monday. 

The California Air National Guard, U.S. Navy and Coast Guard coordinated rescue efforts to reach the Kaufman family about 900 nautical miles from the coast of Mexico.

And parents Eric and Charlotte Kaufman will not have to foot the bill -- at least as far as the Coast Guard is concerned. 

"The Coast Guard does not charge for search and rescue operations," said Coast Guard Lt. Anna Dixon in a statement. "We don’t want people in trouble at sea to hesitate to call for help for fear they’ll be charged for assistance. Mariners assisting one another at sea is both a time-honored tradition and a requirement of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention of the International Maritime Organization."

Dixon said neither the Navy nor the California Air National Guard have indicated plans to seek repayment for their rescue efforts.

On Thursday, 1-year-old Lyra Kaufman fell seriously ill just as the family’s boat, the Rebel Heart, lost its communication and steering abilities.

Thursday night, the California Air National Guard dropped four pararescuemen from a plane into the ocean. Those men climbed aboard the Rebel Heart to stabilize Lyra.

Navy frigate USS Vandegrift reached the boat two days later, and Sunday morning, the Kaufmans boarded the rescue ship.

Now Lyra, her parents and her 3-year-old sister Cora are expected to fly via helicopter back to San Diego by Wednesday so Lyra can get further treatment.

With so many moving parts, California Military Department Capt. Will Martin said officials do not have a cost estimate since the mission is still incomplete.

“Also, any cost estimate we could provide would not reflect the mission’s total cost, as the Navy and Coast Guard incurred costs as well,” wrote Martin in an emailed statement Monday.

A cost tally won’t be finished until they do an “after-action-review.”

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