Driver killed in 110 mph crash at Sprint Nationals speedboat race in Marine Stadium

A speedboat driver died after a collision with another driver caused his boat to flip during a high-speed race in Long Beach today.

The crash happened shortly before 1 p.m. at the Long Beach Sprint Nationals, where boats race through Marine Stadium at 150 mph or more.

Two boats were side by side going around 110 mph when they glanced off each other and one craft flipped multiple times, ejecting the driver, according to Ross Wallach, president of the Southern California Speedboat Club, which organizes the high-profile annual race.

Wallach said the driver was “a very, very dear friend,” but he is not sharing the man’s name publicly until his family is fully informed of the situation.

Emergency crews rushed the driver to a local trauma center where he succumbed to his injuries, Long Beach Fire Department spokesman Brian Fisk said.

“From everybody here, our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family,” Wallach said.

As they launched an investigation into what happened, city officials shut down the race, which was scheduled to conclude today, according to Wallach.

The race has been a fixture in Long Beach for more than 70 years, drawing thousands of spectators. This year marked its return after a hiatus forced by the pandemic in 2020.

In 2018, another high-speed crash at the Sprint Nationals killed Greg Duff, a 36-year-old racer from Newport Beach.

And in 2019, Long Beach originally denied a permit to host the race that year because of safety concerns.

“Our number-one goal is to ensure the safety of spectators and how vulnerable they are to a high-speed boat going into the crowd or launching onto the beach,” LBFD Assistant Chief Matthew Gruneisen said at the time.

Organizers were eventually able to assuage the city’s concerns by complying with a new set of regulations and upping the race’s insurance policy from $1 million to $10 million, Wallach said in 2019.

No spectators were hurt in Sunday’s crash, and the race had gone safely and smoothly up until then.

“It was a great event up until that moment in time,” Wallach said.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with the information that the driver died at the hospital.

Sprint Nationals speedboat race permit denied over safety concerns after death at last year’s race

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.
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