Spring regatta turns deadly on Florida lake

It was a deadly weekend for Florida boaters. Three people died in two separate boat accidents on Lake Dora during what has become known as the Spring Thunder Regatta. It’s the kickoff of boating season and typically involves drivers who showcase vintage racing boats by driving at speeds up to 80 mph.

The first accident happened on Friday, according to the Orlando Sentinel. A 53-year-old driver and his passenger were ejected from their race boat. The man was hit by a passing vessel and was killed, while the passenger was pulled to safety.

A crash the following day was perhaps more horrific, with two experienced boaters colliding. One boat apparently ran over the other, causing both drivers to be ejected. The drivers, ages 64 and 73, respectively, were both killed. Both were apparently famous in the classic race boat show circuit.

The accidents certainly raise questions of safety at the regatta, which has taken place for about six years annually. The event, which drew about 8,000 to 10,000 spectators over the weekend, is typically designed to showcase the boats and speed, not racing. It’s not entirely clear what caused either of the tragic crashes, but the turn of events certainly cast a pall over the community and the weekend.

One woman who was waiting tables at a nearby restaurant says she could hear the gasps of stunned patrons who witnessed the crashes. And a spokesperson for the community tells the Sentinel that the city is “devastated, just devastated.”

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “3 fatalities shock crowd at weekend regatta in lake,” Jerry Fallstrom and Richard Burnett, March 18, 2012