Botched boat rescue leads to lawsuit

When is a rescue not a rescue? The wife of a powerboat racer who died during a boat race in Key West, Florida, in November 2011, is suing the producer of the Key West Super Boat World Championships as well as its medical directors for wrongful death. Priscilla Gratton’s husband, Joey Gratton, drowned in what the lawsuit alleges was a preventable death.

Gratton and Stephen Page, owner of Page Motorsports, were participating in the race in a 38-foot catamaran. The boat overturned during the race, and while Page was able to escape, Gratton was not. He was unable to release himself from his security harness and awaited help. He had access to an emergency air tank.

Though certified rescue dive paramedics were ready to deploy from the air, the race producer, John Carbonell, put them on hold and sent in two on-water volunteers instead. The volunteers, the lawsuit contends, were improperly trained and inexperienced and took too long to reach the sinking boat. By the time they got to Gratton, he had drowned.

Just two days prior to Gratton’s death, two other boat racers had drowned in the race. The lawsuit claims those in charge of the race did nothing to address or correct faulty rescue procedures.

For more on this story, see this article.