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Christmas Will Test Mettle of Yacht Tragedy Survivor

December 23, 1995|Associated Press

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — A Santa Clarita woman who survived a yachting tragedy last month is expected to lean on her new friends as she struggles to cope with Christmas Day without her family.

Judith Sleavin lost her husband Michael, 42, her son Benjamin, 9, and daughter Anna, 7, when their yacht Melinda Lee was rammed at sea by an unidentified cargo ship off the Northland coast on Nov. 24.

Judith Sleavin was staying with friends she had made since being found on a remote Northland beach with serious back and head injuries after she floated for a day and a half in the sunken yacht's life raft.

"I think she just wants a quiet Christmas," her attorney, Gerrard Winter, said today. "She is able to walk about with difficulty, so physically she is doing very well."

Sleavin was discharged Thursday from Whangarei Area Hospital, but the emotional impact of losing her family was beginning to affect her more each day, Winter said.

"That is starting to hit her and we always knew it would start to get more and more difficult as the holiday season gets on. But she has some friends now she spent some time with up in Tonga and they are going to spend Christmas with her."

Winter said Christmas Day for Sleavin without her family was going to be particularly hard.

He said Sleavin was still very tearful and "very reflective" and would cope with Christmas and the aftermath by having friends around her all the time.

He said her mother had joined her from California and she planned to stay in New Zealand until the end of January before she headed back to the United States.

The Korean log ship Pan Grace is believed to have run down the yacht, but its owners said there was nothing linking the ship with the tragedy.

American authorities have started an investigation in Seoul where the ship docked to unload logs from New Zealand earlier this month.

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