So much for sailing away.     Photo: Wikimedia/Google CC

Should the Kaufmans Blame the Phone Company?

Couple points finger at phone company for triggering rescue

A U.S. couple is suing Whenever Communications LLC after the satellite phone company cut off their service while they were at sea. Charlotte and Eric Kaufman's infant daughter became ill during the voyage, and when they were unable to use their phone due to deactivation, the Kaufmans had to seek an emergency rescue by the California Air National Guard and the U.S. Navy. The rescue, along with the now-scuttled boat, cost an estimated $660,000.

That's much more than the family's $240 monthly satellite phone service bill, which had been paid in full since August 2012, according to a KDAL report.

The Kaufmans—Eric, Charlotte, and their two young daughters—were on an extended sail from Mexico to French Polynesia and had stocked their 36-foot sailboat with a satellite phone, rescue beacons, plenty of food and water, and medicine for their youngest daughter, who had recently been ill. When the infant became lethargic, Eric called the U.S. Coast Guard. After he was told that a pediatrician would call them back, he found the line had gone dead.

As a result, an emergency rescue ensued, which meant the family's boat had to be sunk. Now the Kaufmans have sought legal compensation for their loss. They are also inviting the federal government to seek repayment for the expenses of the military rescue, according to ABC.

They say the ordeal could have been avoided had their cell service simply worked. "I think the evidence clearly represents that they did what they did and that was the action that ultimately started a chain of events," Eric Kaufman told ABC News.