Thieves who scuttled an unusual Jet Ski trip around the United States by stealing the skier's escort boat probably had a sinking feeling Friday.
Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies recovered the $10,000 Zodiac speedboat, arrested one suspect and were seeking others after a newspaper reader spotted the missing craft at an industrial center near Carson.
A story in Friday's Times detailed how the speedboat's theft from Marina del Rey had halted the attempt by Gary Frick, 34, of Ocean City, Md., to become the first man to circumnavigate the country's 5,040-mile ocean shoreline on a jet-powered ski.
The trip began in Maine on May 8 as a way of promoting awareness of the Children's Miracle Network, a group that raises money for 165 pediatric hospitals across the country. The trip had been scheduled to end in Seattle on Labor Day.
The escort boat, piloted by Frick's 22-year-old brother, Craig, carried emergency supplies and fuel for the ski, which gets about six miles per gallon. A friend, Kevin Lamb, 29, of Delaware is accompanying the brothers in a motor home.
The theft was discovered Thursday when the trio prepared to cast off after a three-day Los Angeles stopover to visit with patients at Childrens Hospital. The jet-powered boat was missing from the spot where it had been chained to a light pole in a marina parking lot.
The three had "been through some pretty nasty towns without problems . . . we didn't expect any here," a stunned Frick said.
The tipster, who requested anonymity, directed authorities to the industrial park in the 22100 block of South Vermont Avenue. Deputies Richard Lucas and Ed Capifali discovered the Zodiac, along with two other stolen boats and an apparently stolen pickup in a small garage in the middle of the complex.
Arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen property was Dan Rider, 40, of Redondo Beach. Deputies said they are searching for other suspects.
Several neighboring business people remembered seeing the Zodiac on a trailer outside the garage before reading of the theft in Friday's paper.
"I said to myself: 'Why would somebody leave a boat sitting out there?' " said cabinet shop owner William Cooper of Torrance. "I said to myself that somebody was just asking for it to get stolen."
The Jet Ski team--which had spent Friday trying to arrange for a replacement boat to accompany them to Seattle--rushed to the scene to retrieve the Zodiac. One of its inflatable pontoons was flat.
"We'll try to fix it or replace it so we can leave on Tuesday," said Gary Frick, who received several offers of loaner boats on Friday. "If we have to be stranded someplace, I can't think of a more interesting place to be stranded than Los Angeles."
Said Craig Frick: "Friday the 13th turned out to be lucky for us. Thursday was the unlucky day."