Two Martin County men die in weekend incidents at Central Florida race boat exhibitionMarch 18th, 2012 by TCPalm.com
By James Kirley
Two Martin County race boat enthusiasts were among three men who were killed in two separate incidents this weekend during an exhibition of classic race boats on Lake Dora in Central Florida.
Mark VanWinkle, 53, of Stuart, died early Saturday afternoon while piloting a 16-foot homemade Jersey Skiff race boat. Investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that VanWinkle and passenger Lorrain Moody, 47, of Lake Placid, were ejected from the boat after it hit a wave. VanWinkle was killed after his head was struck by the propeller of another Jersey Skiff, driven by Phillip Marney, 18, of Jensen Beach, FWC officials reported.
Moody was later released from the hospital. Both she and VanWinkle were wearing helmets and life jackets, FWC reported.
Neither Marney nor his passenger, Timothy “TJ” Sohn, of Port St. Lucie, were reported to be injured. Sohn’s age was not available.
On Sunday, about 2:15 p.m., Charles Woodruff, 64, of Jensen Beach, and Dea Wiseley, 73, of Sun City, were killed during an event featuring hydroplane boats. An FWC boating accident report was not yet available for that incident Sunday night.
“Something happened to cause the boat operated by Woodruff, ‘The Buckeye Kid,’ to run over the boat that Wiseley was operating, ‘The Shockwave,’” said Joy Hill, FWS spokeswoman. “Both men were ejected and died.”
The hydroplane boats were not carrying passengers.
The boats involved in both incidents were participating in events that were part of the Tavares Spring Thunder Regatta, sponsored by the Classic Raceboat Association.
Marty Ferry, a member of that association, referred details of the two boating incidents to FWC investigators.
Ferry did say that boats in the regatta were participating in exhibitions.
“We don’t race,” he said.
However, racing skiffs can travel around 60 miles per hour, and hydroplanes 70 mph, depending on their class, Ferry said.
Joyce Ross, public information officer for the Tavares Police, said there were seven boats participating in the Saturday event that killed VanWinkle, but only two hydroplanes were in the Sunday event that claimed the lives of Woodruff and Wiseley.
“We’re just extremely saddened that this happened,” Ross said. “Our hearts go out to the families of the people who were involved and to the spectators.”
Ross said she did not know the speeds at which the boats were traveling when the two incidents occurred.
“I heard numbers from 70 miles an hour to over 100 miles per hour,” Ross said. “But I don’t know. That’s what the FWC is going to have to determine.”
Ferry said the Lake Dora event has been held for the past six years and that Saturday and Sunday marked the first fatalities in the history of association’s regattas.
According to the website for the Classic Raceboat Association, it is a Florida-based organization founded to facilitate the exhibition of classic race boats of all types, from the early 1900s to the 1980s.