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2 Injured as Racing Boat Flips

Sports: Dana Point Grand Prix accident seriously injures 1997 world champion competitors from O.C.

May 03, 1999|JASON KANDEL and ELEANOR YANG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Two men were injured, one critically, when their twin-hulled powerboat flipped several times and slammed into the water during the Dana Point Offshore Grand Prix race Sunday, authorities said.

Bryan Darling, 39, of Aliso Viejo, and John Pace, 35, of Huntington Beach, were injured when their 28-foot Skater class boat, XPLOSIVE, overturned in choppy waters midway through the race.

Darling was reported in critical condition late Sunday after surgery for head injuries at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo. Pace suffered cuts and bruises.

The power boats, which reached speeds up to 100 mph, slowed as Orange County Harbor patrol boats and dive crews pulled the men from the water and transported them to local hospitals.

Sgt. Mike Hiller of the Orange County Harbor Patrol said the boat flipped in a cartwheel fashion as it headed into a turn at about 75 mph. The racers wear oxygen tanks and helmets and sit in enclosed cockpits.

"Darling was tossed about quite a bit," Hiller said. "He had a lot of blunt force to his head even as he was wearing a helmet."

After the boat landed upside down, Pace got free of the cockpit, came up for air and realized that Darling hadn't come up, Hiller said. He went back to try to unhook him from the crisscross seat restraints, just as a rescue team in dive suits arrived. Other boaters, watching the race several miles offshore, also stopped to help.

The crash occurred about two miles away from the nearest spectators, Hiller said. About 200 boats had funneled out of the harbor to watch the race.

The conditions were not perfect for racing, said Rick Bowling of Alamo, Calif., who won the race with his son, Ryan, in their 37-foot catamaran, Jelly Belly.

"It was pretty bumpy out there," Bowling said. "All I saw was the boat upside down. I hope they're OK."

In the racing circuit nationwide, there are only a few accidents a year, and serious injuries are rare, Bowling said.

"Generally, nobody gets hurt," he said. "They train us on simulators. We wear helmets and life jackets. And we got oxygen tanks if we flip over."

Pace and Darling were the 1997 world champions in stock boat racing.

The Dana Point event has grown in popularity in recent years, officials say, because of the location and the fact that racers and their boats are accessible to fans.

The six- to nine-lap course, depending on boat class, runs from the harbor to the San Clemente Pier. It's the third in a seven-race Pacific Offshore Championship series. Proceeds from the event benefit the Orange County Marine Institute.

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