An offshore powerboat racer lost his life on November 11 after a powerboat accident in Key West. He was critically injured when a 38-foot catamaran rolled over during a turn in the final lap of the race. His partner, the boat's owner and driver, was able to extricate himself from the boat; he suffered minor injuries. This was the third fatality in the Key West World Championship that week. Two men died on the first day of the race when their 46-foot catamaran crashed.
Despite the competition claiming three lives in one week, race officials continued with the scheduled races. John Carbonell, president of Super Boat International (SBI), said "That's what they're here for. They know when they come to a race the potential of accidents.” He said turns are where accidents are most likely to occur, and that race officials have medics stationed near the course's trickiest points to ensure a fast response.
Medical examiners stated that the victim did not die from injuries in the accident; he drowned waiting to be rescued. It took three and a half minutes for the trained divers in the helicopter to deploy after the crash. What about the rescue boat? The boats “stand by” in the event of an accident at which time divers go overboard to release racers trapped in their boats. Michael Allweiss, director of the American Power Boat Association and the plaintiff’s attorney, said the rescue boats are supposed to be the first responders, but their incompetence and lack of professional training caused the man to drown.
The first fatal accident at the races has raised questions about how sturdy the cockpit capsules are that protect the racers. The SBI said further investigations will include looking into the construction and installation of the cockpit capsule. The capsule may have failed from either a substandard canopy or a substandard job of attaching and reinforcing it. Although the SBI recommends that all entries comply with its cockpit design guidelines, compliance is not mandatory. The second fatality raises questions about proper training of the rescue teams.
The family of the victim killed on November 11 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit accusing the SBI of “gross negligence” in its safety and rescue operations during the entire event. They said the lawsuit is not about the money, but change in the sport of boat racing. They also want the SBI safety and rescue teams to make sure nothing like this happens again. Carbonell said, “Unfortunately, we lose lives, but every time we do, we learn something.” Although there is no doubt that these races are risky and dangerous, safety is of paramount importance. Stringent safety measures can curtail the actual number of deaths associated with open water powerboat racing. Proper training should be the first step in helping to prevent fatalities and improve overall safety; compliance with cockpit design guidelines should be mandatory. Why wait until another fatality to “learn something?” Why wait for a lawsuit? It is time to put safety over profit –first and foremost!
Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Experienced attorney, lawsuit funding expert, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. The series consists of "Betrayal of Faith", "Betrayal of Justice", and "Betrayal in Blue", with a fourth book due out in 2019. You can learn more about these topical political, legal thrillers at markmbello.com. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.