The San Diego family of four with a seriously ailing 1-year-old had already struggled for days aboard their 36-foot sailboat by the time skydiving National Guardsmen answered their distress call from hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast.
"They were elated, they were ecstatic," when the four para-rescuemen jumped 1,500 feet out of an aircraft into the open sea to reach them and stabilize the child, Capt. Lejon Boudreaux, combat rescue officer for the California Air National Guard, said Wednesday after the family was delivered safely to San Diego.
When sailors from the Vandegrift finally reached the sailboat Sunday morning, 5- to 8-foot waves forced them to offload one person at a time to a pitching rescue boat. The effort took two hours.
"Stand on top of a 6-foot ladder, have a friend throw a bucket of saltwater in your face, rinse and repeat for two hours," Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Ian Matthew Gabriel said in describing the conditions.