U.S. Cutter Reaches Drifting Yacht; Body Found on Board

A Coast Guard cutter rendezvoused Sunday with a sailboat found adrift eight days ago in the South Pacific and confirmed there is a body aboard that probably is that of Garden Grove attorney Manning Eldridge, skipper of the long-overdue boat.

It probably will be Friday or later before positive identification is made, U. S. Coast Guard spokesman Scott A. Hartvigsen said in Honolulu.

Eldridge, 41, had sailed in the yacht, Marara, from Tahiti on a voyage to Hawaii seven months ago. He was reported overdue 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 cutter Sassafras reached the drifting sailboat about 2 a.m. Sunday, Honolulu time, Hartvigsen said. Officers on the cutter confirmed that a body was on board the yacht.

"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 . . . about mid-day Friday."

The Marara showed visible signs of storm damage at sea, according to the cutter's crew. "The sails were ripped off and part of the mast was gone," Hartvigsen said.

"The only hope is that it will not be (Eldridge's body)," said Wendi Rothman, a Seal Beach friend of the attorney. "But that is a very slim hope."

Rothman said she and her husband would fly to Honolulu.

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