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Race deaths raise questions about safety

Big Thunder Motorsports, a 46-foot Skater, went airborne in a violent and fatal crash at the Key West Super Boat World Championships.Three powerboat racers died this fall at the Key West World Championships in the deadliest race in the 31-year history of the event.

Robert M. Morgan, 74, of Sunrise Beach, Mo., a world powerboat champion in 1998 and 2001, and Jeffrey Tillman, 47, of Kaiser, Mo., died when their 46-foot Skater catamaran, Big Thunder Motorsports — an unlimited super boat — blew over backward Nov. 9 in the harbor at Key West during the first day of racing.

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Investigation to look at canopies

Big Thunder Motorsports was doing around 130 mph when it blew over.With three dead at the Key West championships this year, questions of safety in Super Boat racing have come up, as they often do when tragedy haunts the racecourse.

“I believe there is a safety issue,” says John Connor, a 40-year veteran of powerboat racing who has retired from competition. He is calling for stricter equipment standards for cockpit capsules, in particular, and tougher inspections to weed out non-compliant boats.

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Cause of trawler capsize unclear

Southern Marine Towing refloated the DeFever and transported it to a marina in Pickensville, Ala.Moonstruck, a DeFever 43 trawler, capsized and sank Sept. 30 while meeting a tug with barges head-on at an “S” curve on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway north of Pickensville, Ala.

Built in 1979 and registered to David Harris, of Pearl, Miss., the DeFever was downbound just below mile marker 317 when it encountered the 85-footer Chippewa pushing nine barges, says Capt. Shane O’Neal, owner of Southern Marine Towing, which refloated the trawler and towed it 10 miles to Pirate’s Marina Cove in Pickensville.

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Operating around tugs and barges

Commercial vessels, including towboats and tugboats, operate 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Here are some tips for sharing the water with them.

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Seamanship Quiz

Test your knowledge with these Coast Guard license exam prep questions from the National Captain’s Institute

www.captains.com

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