It will probably be Friday or later before positive identification is made of a body aboard a drifting sailboat that is believed to be that of Manning Eldridge, a long-missing Garden Grove lawyer and private sailor, officials for the U. S. Coast Guard in Honolulu said Sunday.
Coast Guard spokesman Scott A. Hartvigsen said the Coast Guard cutter Sassafras had linked up Sunday in the South Pacific with Eldridge's sailboat, Marara. Eldridge began sailing it from Tahiti to Hawaii seven months ago. He was reported overdue in Hawaii on Feb. 8, but the Marara was not found until July 26, when it was spotted by a fishing vessel 1,500 miles southeast of Honolulu.
The Sassafras reached the drifting sailboat about 2 a.m. Sunday Honolulu time, Hartvigsen said. He said officers on the cutter confirmed that a body was on board the sailboat but added that positive identification was not made. "We probably won't have identification (of the body) until the boat is towed back to Honolulu," Hartvigsen said. "We're expecting the Sassafras to arrive in Honolulu about midday Friday."
Hartvigsen said the Sassafras crew decided to tow the sailboat rather than trying to raise it and carry it aboard the cutter.
The Marara showed visible signs of storm damage at sea, according to Hartvigsen. "The sails were ripped off and part of the mast was gone," he said.