Two powerboat racers killed during Key West event
Rescue personnel work on extracting offshore powerboat racers Robert M. Morgan of Sunrise Beach, Mo., and Jeffrey Tillman of Kaiser, Mo., after their 46-foot catamaran was involved in a violent accident during the first of three race days at the Key West World Championship on in Key West, Florida
Two racers were killed when their boat barrel-rolled and landed upside down in Wednesday’s opener of the Key West Super Boat World Championships.
Big Thunder Marine owner/throttleman Bob Morgan of Sunrise Beach, Mo., and driver Jeffrey Tillman of Kaiser, Mo., were pronounced dead at Lower Keys Medical Center on Wednesday afternoon.
Big Thunder, a 46-foot Skater with four 1,200-horsepower engines, crashed in Key West Harbor during the race’s third lap in front of spectators at Mallory Square.
Paramedics jumped from helicopters and pulled the victims onto a rescue boat, which transported them to an ambulance on shore. The boat’s cockpit was crushed and one of the sponsons torn off.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to their families,” Rodrick Cox, a spokesman for Super Boat International Productions, said.
At almost the same time, racers aboard Motley Crew, a 36-foot Skater with twin 525-horsepower engines, crashed a short distance offshore. But driver Scott Roman and throttleman Ron Roman, both of New Jersey, were not seriously injured.
A memorial service for Morgan and Tillman is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in the race pits at the Truman Waterfront. The second race of the three-event series will go on as scheduled Friday and Sunday, according to race director John Carbonell.
Wednesday’s fatalities are the first ones at the Key West world championships since 1995, when one racer died and three were seriously injured in separate crashes.
Morgan, the affable owner of the Big Thunder Motorsports Park and Marina Complex on Lake of the Ozarks, won two Key West world titles in his career – in 1998 and 2001—and had previously survived a few close calls on the race course. Big Thunder rolled over at 80 mph during a turn in the final lap of the 1999 championships and caught fire during the 2004 series.
Morgan and Tillman, a Lake of the Ozarks developer, last August competed aboard Big Thunder in the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, reaching speeds of over 170 mph.
Race teams from as far away as the Ukraine, Australia, and Europe are competing alongside U.S. entries this week in an event widely considered the Indianapolis 500 of offshore powerboat racing.