Key West World Powerboat Championship: Racer Jeffrey Tillman Killed By Incompetence (Video)

The crash killed two menIt was one of the most spectacular and horrible crashes in South Florida marine history. A powerboat traveling more than 130 miles per hour flipped over backward and two men drowned beneath the hull in a world championship event as rescue workers struggled to reach the site.

Now, a lawsuit filed in Fort Lauderdale charges the pair, Jeffrey Tillman and his 74-year-old throttleman, Bob Morgan, died unnecessarily.

The suit was filed November 7, just as this past weekend's races in Key West started.. More than 40 boats competed against one another to run the 6.2 mile course.

Miami is a powerboating mecca. Its role in the trade was highlighted in 1987, with the gangland style killing of Don Aronow, the greatest powerboat racer of all time. During that era, the boats were often used to transport cocaine to the United States from the Caribbean.

Tillman and Morgan were killed in November 2011 when their boat flipped over. It took rescue workers nine minutes to reach them, charges the lawsuit filed by attorney William Scherer, because race sponsors incorrectly assumed they were killed by blunt trauma,.

The race was later cancelled because a second boat turned over, and rescue workers were stretched too thin to continue.

Three days later, a second driver, Joey Gratton, was killed when his boat flipped over. His widow has also sued race organizers Superboat International Productions and President John Carbonell. That suit is presently scheduled to go to trial early next year.

Autopsies after the accident showed Tillman and Morgan died from drowning. Saltwater was discovered in their lungs.

The suit faults race sponsors for allowing Tillman's boat to continue even though it didn't have a reinforced cockpit or a through-hull escape hatch, which might have saved the men, According to the Associated Press, boat teams now have to share safety plans with race sponsors, which was not required in the past.

Send your story tips to the author, Chuck Strouse.

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse