Powerboat racer in critical condition

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.