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Powerboat racer in critical condition

Medical boat transports injured powerboat racers Stephen Page and Joey Gratton
A boat takes racers Joey Gratton and Stephen Page to shore. Gratton later died.
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KEY WEST, Fla. (AP)

An offshore powerboat racer was critically injured Friday during an accident at the Key West World Championship, where two racers were killed in a boating crash on Wednesday.

Super Boat International officials said Friday night that racer Joey Gratton of University Park, Fla., was being airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.

His racing partner Stephen Page, the owner and driver of Page Motorsports, was admitted to Lower Keys Medical Center. Racing officials said he was in good condition.

The 38-foot Superboat 850-class Skater catamaran rolled over twice at checkpoint 1 of the 6-1/2-mile course, on the final lap of the seven-lap race.

"It was the classic rollover type of accident; something we've seen before at turns," said John Carbonell, president of Super Boat International, the event's sanctioning body. "We're investigating the accident, but preliminarily it appears they may have gone into the turn a bit too fast."

The accident followed a crash on the first day of racing that killed Robert M. Morgan of Sunrise Beach, Mo., and Jeffrey Tillman of Kaiser, Mo. They were the throttleman and driver, respectively, for Big Thunder Marine.

Both offshore racers injured Friday were pushing hard to keep up with J.D. Byrider, piloted by Ohio racers Tony Marcantonio of Dover, and Mark Kowalski of Hinkley.

Page was able to extricate himself from the boat, but rescue divers had to pull Gratton out. Carbonell was awaiting medical and safety reports before providing further details on rescue efforts, but said medical boats are positioned at turns, because of the potential for accidents.

At the time of the incident, sustained winds were about 15 mph, with gusts to 23 mph, according to forecasters at the Key West National Weather Service. Wave heights were about 2 to 3 feet.

Wednesday's crash had caused some racers to adjust their strategies on Friday.

"It was a terrible tragedy and everybody had it on their minds," said Randy Scism of Wentzville, Mo., throttleman for the CMS boat that has the lead in the Superboat Unlimited standings.

Scism said he and owner/driver Bob Bull of Macks Creek, Mo., set up CMS very conservatively to maximize control rather than speed during the second race day.



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