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Australian government will not ask Abby Sunderland to pay back rescue costs

June 15, 2010 |  2:19 pm

Abby Sunderland's family posted a message on the 16-year-old sailor's blog denying media reports that the Australian government would be seeking compensation for its search-and-rescue efforts.

The government commissioned a Qantas Airways jetliner to fly over the Indian Ocean as part of the search for Sunderland. That jet, loaded with dozens of harbor patrol spotters, was the first to make radio contact with Sunderland and confirm that she was alive and well late Thursday.

On the blog, search and rescuers from Perth wrote:

"Australia like the U.S. have always responded to request for help and have provided whatever resources are required. At no stage have we asked for cost recovery. Likewise domestic search and rescue have never requested payment for services. If a person wishes to make a contribution to the costs then that is their call. It is not expected or asked for.

Let's not let the media portray the many groups that were involved in Abby's rescue as a bunch of people motivated and driven by money. This is not the case."

The blog also includes clarification from Sunderland's parents about a potential reality show deal with Magnetic Entertainment, a Studio City-based production company. The idea -- to produce an inspiring show about their children's sailing adventures and the family -- was shopped, but not sold. After that, the rights were returned to them, her parents noted.

"There is no reality TV show or documentary in the works and we will not be pursuing one. We find it ironic that the media, who are spreading gossip and sensationalizing Abby's story for profit, have the nerve to criticize us for supposedly doing the same thing -- very ironic," they wrote.

Sunderland was attempting to circumnavigate the globe alone when she hit three-story-high waves last Thursday. The rough seas snapped her mast, triggering a tense search and a rescue by a French fishing boat. Her rescue boat made a stop at the remote Kerguelen Islands off the coast of Antarctica on Tuesday. She is expected to be reunited with her family in several days.

-- Kimi Yoshino

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