Drag Boat and Water Speed Record Racer Memorial

                   1980-1989

Craig Arfons

Born:  September 26, 1949

Died:  July 9, 1989

Buried: East Liberty Cemetery, Green, Ohio

Age:  39

Full Name:  Jon Craig Arfons

Nickname: 

Location:  Lake Jackson, Sebring, Florida

Event:  world water speed record attempt

Accident Date:  July 9, 1989

Boat:  "Rain-X Record Challenger" 25-foot jet hydroplane

Biographical:  He was trying to break the world water speed record of 317.6 MPH set by Ken Warby in 1978.  He was traveling about 370 MPH and let the afterburner run a few seconds longer than he initially had planned.  By the time he shut down the afterburner and released the chute, it was too late.  The craft lifted off the lake surface and the boat started to tumble out of control, disintegrating as it impacted.  He was transported to Highlands Regional Medical Center where he died about an hour after arriving.  He was from Bradenton, Florida.  His father was Walt Arfons and his uncle was Art Arfons, both land speed record holders from the 1960s.

Video:

Sources

"Bradenton man killed as boat flips," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, July 10, 1989

"Officials are checking out Arfons death," Ocala Star-Banner, July 11, 1989

"Racer Arfons died when boat became airborne," Gainesville Sun, July 23, 1989

"Boat racers run at record ends in death at 370 MPH," Orlando Sentinel, July 10, 1989

Norman Hechtkoff, e-mail communication to site administrator, August 8, 2010

Florida Death Index (Jon Craig Arfons, born Sep. 26, 1949, died July 9, 1989, in Highlands Co., age 39)

Photos

http://www.histarmar.com.ar/InfGral/RecordsVelocidad.htm  (accessed 8/8/10)

 

Jeff Bruns

Born:  October 29, 1955

Died:  April 27, 1980

Buried:  cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea

Age:  24

Full Name:  Jeffrey Antone Bruns

Nickname: 

Location:  Berenda Reservoir, Chowchilla, California

Event:  NDBA race

Accident Date:  April 27, 1980

Boat:  

Biographical:  He had just been clocked at about 140 MPH when his boat went airborne.  He was thrown from the boat and then hit by it.  He was from El Segundo, California, and was the son of Antone and Otha Lee Bruns of Los Angeles.  He also was survived by his sister, Laurie Ellen Bruns of Los Angeles.

Sources

"Memorial service set for boat racer," Los Angeles Times, April 30, 1980

California Birth Index  (Jeffrey Antone Bruns, born October 29, 1955 in L.A. Co., mother’s maiden name was Keyes)

Social Security Death Index (Jeffrey Bruns, born Oct. 29, 1955, died Apr. 1980, SS# issued in Calif.)

Find a Grave website

Photos

Jack Cayer

Born:  September 16, 1937

Died:  April 12, 1980

Buried:  Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittier, California

Age:  42

Full Name:  Jack Amedie Cayer

Nickname: 

Location:  Lake Ming, Bakersfield, California

Event:  NDBA West Coast Championships

Accident Date:  April 10, 1980

Boat:  "Extremely Dangerous" blown fuel flatbottom

Biographical:  During qualifying, the engine in his boat seized while he was crossing the finish line at a speed of about 140 MPH.  He was thrown from the craft and suffered massive head injuries.  He was one of the founders of the National Drag Boat Association and was then serving as vice president.  He was from Downey, California, and was survived by his wife, Billie, daughter, Sharon, and son, Jeff.

Sources

"Boat racer Jack Cayer is dead," Los Angeles Times, April 15, 1980

"Services Friday for boat racer Cayer," Los Angeles Times, April 17, 1980

California Death Index (Jack Amedie Cayer, born September 1937 in Calif., died April 12, 1980 in Kern Co., mother’s maiden name was Crissman)

Social Security Death Index (Jack Cayer, born Sep. 17, 1937, died Apr. 1980, SS# issued in Cal. In 1954)

California Birth Index  (Jack Amedie Cayer, born Sep. 16, 1937 in L.A. Co., mother’s maiden name was Crissman)

Photos

Milt Chapman

Born:  August 9, 1941

Died:  May 25, 1986

Buried: 

Age:  44

Full Name:  Milton Chapman

Nickname: 

Location:   Red Bluff, California

Event:  

Accident Date:  May 25, 1986

Boat:  

Biographical: 

Sources

California Death Index (Milton Chapman, born Aug. 9, 1941, in NY, died May 25, 1986 in Tehama, mother’s maiden name was Fraser)

Social Security Death Index  (Milton Chapman, born Aug. 9, 1941, died May 1986, last benefit in Escondido, SS# issued 1956 in Calif)

Photos

Bill Davis

Born: 

Died:  September 25, 1988

Buried: 

Age:  

Full Name:  

Nickname:  Billy the Kid

Location:  Lake Glenmaggie, Australia

Event:  

Accident Date:  September 25, 1988

Boat:  "Tinker Toy" blown alcohol hydro, bought from Art Hendy and Tim Capaldi

Biographical:  He had set the Australian BAH speed record earlier in the day with a run of 183.54 MPH.  During his back up run later that afternoon, the wind had kicked up.  His hydro became airborne just past the finish line and crashed.  He was transported to Heyfield Hospital, then rushed to the larger base hospital in Sale where he succumbed to his injuries later that evening.  He was survived by his wife, Glenys, and son, William.  He was a founding member of the Victorian Drag Boat Club. 

Sources

Gary L. James, e-mail communication to site administrator, Feb. 9, 2011

Photos

Gary James, e-mail communication to site administrator,  Sep. 3, 2011

 

 

Neil Donegan

Born:   September 28, 1950

Died:  July 28, 1985

Buried:   Willamette National Cemetery, Portland, Oregon

Age:  34

Full Name:   Neil Eugene Donegan

Nickname: 

Location:  Ten Mile Lake, Lakeside, Oregon

Event: 

Accident Date:  1985

Boat: 

Biographical:  For over twenty years the Columbia Drag Boat Association has sponsored the Neil Donegan Classic at Lakeside in memory of Donegan.

Sources

Oregon Death Index

Social Security Death Index

Photos

Cecil Florence

Born: 

Died:  April 7, 1984

Buried: 

Age:  38

Full Name:  Cecil N. Florence, Jr.

Nickname: 

Location:  Firebird Lake, near Phoenix, Arizona

Event:  private test session

Accident Date:  April 7, 1984

Boat:  "Coors Light Special" blown alcohol hydro

Biographical:  He was testing an innovative hull designed to tunnel air under the boat.  He was traveling 208 MPH when the boat suddenly lifted off the water and flipped.  He was from Long Beach, California, and was survived by his wife, Dee.

Sources

"Driver killed as boat flips at 190 MPH," New York Times, April 8, 1984

"Drag boats," Los Angeles Times, July 15, 1984

"Drag boat race today at Irvine Lake," Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1984

U. S. Public Records Index  (Cecil N. Florence, Jr., 2127 Temple Ave, Long Beach, CA, 90755)

Photos

Bill Hartman

Born:  March 22, 1944

Died:  July 6, 1986

Buried: Grace Alliance Church Cemetery, Lexington, North Carolina

Age:  42

Full Name:  William Henry Hartman, Jr.

Nickname: 

Location:  Brazos River, near Waco, Texas

Event:  Southern Drag Boat Association Texas Shootout

Accident Date:  July 6, 1986

Boat:  2,500 horsepower 14-foot drag boat

Biographical:  He crashed while traveling at more than 100 MPH.  He was vice-president of the Southern Drag Boat Association.

Sources

"Miscellany," Chicago Tribune, July 8, 1986

Texas Death Index  (William Hartman, Jr., died July 6, 1986 in McLennan Co.)

Photos

Find a Grave

 

Jim Hobbs

Born:  February 10, 1943

Died:  June 24, 1984

Buried: Montecito Memorial Park, Colton, California

Age:  41

Full Name:  James Raymond Hobbs

Nickname: 

Location:  Irvine Lake, Orange, California

Event:  Summer Championships

Accident Date:  June 24, 1984

Boat:  blown fuel hydroplane

Biographical:  He died of neck and chest injuries several hours after his boat flipped over at more than 180 MPH.  It happened during qualifying.  He was from San Bernardino, California, and was survived by his wife, Joyce, and son and daughter.  It was only his third competition in the boat.  Witnesses thought he should have shut it off earlier in the run when it started showing early signs of getting into trouble.

Sources

"Drag boat racer dies after he flips in race," Los Angeles Times, June 25, 1984

"Sports log," Milwaukee Journal, June 25, 1984

"Drag boats," Los Angeles Times, July 15, 1984

California Death Index (James Raymond Hobbs, born February 10, 1943 in Michigan, died June 24, 1984 in Orange Co., mother’s maiden name was Crist)

Social Security Death Index  (Jim Hobbs, born Feb. 10, 1943, died June 1984, SS# issued in Calif. In 1958)

Find a Grave

Photos

 

Hughie Jones

Born: 

Died:  June 22, 1987

Buried: 

Age:  

Full Name:  

Nickname: 

Location:  Upper Thames River, London, Ontario, Canada

Event:  

Accident Date:  June 22, 1986

Boat:  "Stagefright" blown fuel hydro

Biographical:  He lost his prop in the lights turning 217 MPH and crashed in the shutdown area.

Sources

http://dragboatracing.com/Community/Forums/tabid/54/aft/35723/Default.aspx (accessed 7/26/10)

Gregg Padgett, e-mail communication to site administrator, Oct. 7, 2010

Photos

Julian Kirk

Born:  January 8, 1936

Died:  July 26, 1982

Buried: Central Baptist Church Cemetery, Midlothian, Virginia

Age:  46

Full Name:  William Julian Kirk

Nickname: 

Location:  Oak Hollow Lake, near High Point, North Carolina

Event:  World Drag Boat Championships

Accident Date:  July 24, 1982

Boat:  "Black Rushin" 17-foot unblown gas-powered Canyon Marine (owned by Harvey Chadwell)

Biographical:  He was traveling about 120 MPH during time trials when his boat suddenly dipped to the right.  The jolt threw Kirk from his seat.  He tried to leap clear, but his parachute opened and he was thrown back into the path of the speeding boat.  Witnesses thought he may have been struck by the boat during the accident.  Twenty seconds after the accident a rescue boat reached him and they began administering CPR.  He was transported to High Point Memorial Hospital.  He was kept on a respirator, but never regained consciousness before dying two days after the accident. He had been racing boats for eight years and was from Richmond, Virginia.

Sources

"Virginia powerboat racer dies," St. Petersburg Times, July 27, 1982

"Wreck kills speedboater," Lakeland Ledger,  July 27, 1982

"Death at 120 miles per hour," Chicago Tribune, July 27, 1982

North Carolina Death Collection (William Julian Kirk, born January 8, 1936 in Virginia, lived in Beaufort Co., VA, died July 26, 1982 in High Point, NC, married)

Social Security Death Index (William Kirk, born Jan. 8, 1936, died July 1982, SS# issued in Virginia in 1955)

Photos

"Death at 120 miles per hour," Chicago Tribune, July 27, 1982 

Find a Grave

 

Randy Muller

Born:  January 25, 1953

Died:  October 5, 1985

Buried: Ivy Lawn Memorial Park, Ventura, California

Age:  32

Full Name:  Rudolph Carl Muller

Nickname: Goose

Location:  Lake Ming, near Bakersfield, California

Event:  21st annual NDBA Nationals

Accident Date:  October 5, 1985

Boat:  

Biographical:  He had been clocked at 124 MPH and was just past the finish line when his boat became airborne and flipped over.  He was thrown clear of the boat and his chute opened but he hit the water hard.  He was transported to Kern Medical Center where he died from his injuries.  On his previous run he had set a record of 135 MPH.  He was from Ventura, California, and had been racing drag boats for five years.

Sources

"Boat racer killed," Florence Times Daily, October 7, 1985

California Death Index  (Rudolph Carl Muller, died Oct. 5, 1985 in Kern Co., born Jan. 25, 1953 in Calif., mother’s maiden name was Hess)

California Birth Index  (Rudolph Carl Muller, born Jan. 25, 1953, in Ventura Co., mother’s maiden name was Hess)

Photos

Dave Nolte

Born:   February 9, 1948

Died:  June 22, 1986

Buried: 

Age:  38

Full Name:  David Russell Nolte

Nickname: 

Location:  Berenda Reservoir, near Chowchilla, California

Event:  Central Valley Drag Boat Association Chowchilla Summer Showdown

Accident Date:  June 22, 1986

Boat:  "Liberty" blown fuel hydroplane

Biographical:  After hitting a speed of 210 MPH, he was shutting the boat down when an apparent propeller malfunction caused his accident.  When the motor shut off it caused a lot of back pressure and the propeller shaft pulled right out of the boat.  He was transported by helicopter to Valley Medical Center in Fresno but was dead on arrival.  He was from Fresno, California.  His death was the fourth in the space of thirty days in drag boat racing.  It resulted in a moratorium being declared on drag boat racing nationwide while the insurer for the sport conducted an investigation into all aspects of the sport.

Sources

"Accident brings halt to drag boat racing for now," Modesto Bee, June 27, 1986

"Boat racer killed in mishap," Boca Raton News, June 24, 1986

"Speedboat death," Miami Herald, June 24, 1986

"Newswire," Los Angeles Times, June 24, 1986 

California Death Index  (David Russell Nolte, born February 9, 1948 in Calif., died June 22, 1986 in Fresno, mother’s maiden name was Sciutto)

California Birth Index  (David Russell Nolte, born February 9, 1948 in Fresno Co., mother’s maiden name was Sciutto)

Photos

http://www.nitrogeezers.com/Farndon%20Story_4.htm  (accessed 8/5/10)

 

Thurman Riggs

Born:   August 1, 1942

Died:  July 1983

Buried: Floral Haven Memorial Gardens, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Age:  40

Full Name:  

Nickname: 

Location:  Creve Couer Lake, Maryland Heights, Missouri

Event:  

Accident Date:  July 1983

Boat:  

Biographical:  He was from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Sources

"Racing deaths called fate," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 23, 2009

"Speedboat racer hurt on Creve Coeur," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 12, 1988

Social Security Death Index

U.S. Public Records Index  (Thurman Riggs, born Aug. 1, 1942, resides in Tulsa, OK, 807 N. 29th West Ave.)

Photos


Bob Rogers

Born:  December 8, 1937

Died:  April 16, 1988

Buried: Cremains scattered in Lake Grapevine, Texas

Age:  50

Full Name:  James Robert Rogers

Nickname: 

Location:  Toledo Bend Reservoir, Logansport, Louisiana

Event:  Southern Drag Boat Association

Accident Date:  April 16, 1988

Boat:  "Snap, Crackle, Pop" blown fuel jet class

Biographical:  He was making a half-track pass in his 482 cu. inch Donovan-powered drag boat and was traveling at 133 mph when he crashed.  He was an aircraft mechanic for American Airlines at Dallas Fort Worth Airport for 23 years.  He was survived by his sons, James Donald and James Ronald Rogers.

Sources

http://dragboatracing.com/Community/Forums/tabid/54/aft/35706/Default.aspx (accessed 3/12/11)

Margaret Meier, e-mail communication to site administrator, Mar. 9, 2011

James Rogers, e-mail communication from site administrator, Apr. 21-22,2012

Photos

Tom Roland

Born:   December 24, 1943

Died:  August 6, 1988

Buried: 

Age:  44

Full Name:  Thomas Frank Roland

Nickname: 

Location:  Berenda Reservoir, Chowchilla, California

Event: 

Accident Date:   August 6, 1988

Boat: blown fuel jet boat

Biographical:   His engine locked up after experiencing extreme pressure build-up and his craft flipped.

Sources

"

Photos

Ken Scheff

Born:  February 12, 1945

Died:  June 6, 1981

Buried: Arlington Cemetery, Pennsauken, New Jersey

Age:  36

Full Name:  Kenneth L. Scheff

Nickname: 

Location:  Holloway Reservoir, near Columbiaville, Michigan

Event:  ADBA Blue Water Classic

Accident Date:  June 6, 1981

Boat:  turbo-charged hydroplane

Biographical:  During qualifying his boat flipped after crossing the finish line.  He was traveling 135 MPH when he was thrown from the boat.  He was transported to Lapeer County General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.  He was from Mount Holly, New Jersey.

Sources

"Hydroplane racer killed in accident," Montreal Gazette, June 8, 1981

"Hydroplane racer killed in crash," Palm Beach Post, June 8, 1981

"N. J. hydroplane racer killed," Daytona Beach Morning Journal, June 8, 1981

Social Security Death Index (Kenneth Scheff, born Feb. 12, 1945, died June 1981, SS# issued in New Jersey)

Michigan Deaths  (Kenneth L. Scheff, born Feb. 12, 1945, died June 6, 1981, in Lapeer, Michigan, residence New Jersey)

Photos

Jerry Spencer

Born:  May 17,  1947

Died:  September 8, 1985

Buried: 

Age:  38

Full Name:  Gerald Spencer

Nickname: 

Location:  Creve Couer Lake, Maryland Heights, Missouri

Event:  ADBA Midwest Championship

Accident Date:  September 8, 1985

Boat:  

Biographical:  He was traveling at an estimated 146 MPH and had just finished the run when his boat popped into the air and he was thrown from the boat.  It was a freak accident as he had made a good run and was slowing down when the boat caught air and came right up out of the water.  He was from Ashland, Ohio, and had been a national champion in the American Drag Boat Association in 1981.  It was Spencer's first racing event in two years.

Sources

"Freak accident kills drag-boat driver," Bryan Times, September 9, 1985

"Miscellaneous," Milwaukee Journal, Sep. 9, 1985

Social Security Death Index (Gerald Spencer, born May 17, 1947, died Sep. 1985, SS# issued in Michigan in 1964)

Photos

Lee Taylor

Born:  June 20, 1934

Died:  November 13, 1980

Buried: Happy Homestead Cemetery, South Lake Tahoe, California

Age:  46

Full Name:  Lee Allen Taylor, Jr.

Nickname: 

Location:  Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Event:  world water speed record attempt

Accident Date:  

Boat:  $2.5 million dollar "U.S. Discovery II" rocket-engined 40-foot steel and aluminum craft

Biographical:  He was trying to better the world water speed record of 317.60 MPH set by Ken Warby of Australia in 1978.  He had held the world water speed record from 1967 to 1977, set with his "Hustler" jet boat at 285.22 MPH.  In tests the previous spring, Taylor had been clocked at 440 MPH in tests on Walker Lake and thought the boat would be capable of 500 MPH.  On his fatal run, he had been clocked at about 290 MPH  and his speed increased to about 330 MPH before he shut it down.  The boat began to wobble on its sponsons.  The left sponson suddenly submerged, causing the craft to suddenly lurch to the right.  It disintegrated in a huge spray of water and broken parts.  Divers finally found his body five days after the crash strapped into the 8-foot long cockpit at a depth of 280 feet and a half mile from shore.  Three days later they were able to bring the cockpit of the boat holding his body into shallower 200-foot deep water, but it slipped from the grappling hooks.  Ten days after the crash on November 22, the salvage barge crew were finally able to hoist the boat and his body to the surface.  His body was removed to a private pier where it was examined by the Douglas County coroner before being removed for an autopsy.  He had a 23-man crew and it was the sentiment of all of them that Taylor should not have made his run because the surface water conditions were poor.  They tried to talk him into returning to Walker Lake to attempt the record.  It seems that he may have made the decision to run that day at Tahoe against the advice of his crew and pressure to please sponsors and media in attendance.  He was from Bellflower, California. 

Sources

"Water speed record set," Lethbridge Herald, July 3, 1967

"Bellflower man plans attempt to regain world water speed record in rocket boat," Los Angeles Times, March 13, 1980

"Boat driver is lost in crash on Tahoe," Los Angeles Times, November 14, 1980

"Body missing," Monessen Valley Independent, November 18, 1980

"Taylor search continues," Gettysburg Times, November 14, 1980

"Boat driver's body found," Gettysburg Times, November 19, 1980

"Taylor's body is found," Los Angeles Times, November 19, 1980

"Body of boat racer still in Lake Tahoe," Hartford Courant, November 22, 1980

"Boat still not recovered," Gettysburg Times, November 22, 1980

"Speedboating," Daily Sitka Sentinel, November 26, 1980

"10-year dream ends with Taylor death," New York Times, November 23, 1980

"Lee Taylor: Pressure in prime time," Los Angeles Times, November 21, 1980

Social Security Death Index  (Lee Taylor, born June 20, 1934, died Nov. 1980, SS# issued in Calif.)

Steve Garcia, e-mail communication to site administrator, Aug. 6, 2013

Photos

"Bellflower man plans attempt to regain world water speed record in rocket boat," Los Angeles Times, March 13, 1980

http://www.boatdesign.net/forums/boat-design/lee-taylor-rocket-boat-15461.html  (accessed 3/21/11)

Arthur Benjamins, e-mail communication to site administrator, Mar. 20, 2011

http://www.vonicon.com/bluebirdpublications/show.php?sh=gallery&page=2&perpage=10&rcat=all 

 

 

By kind permission from Arthur Benjamins (copyright) 

Bill Thomas

Born:  November 2, 1955

Died:  June 11, 1989

Buried: 

Age:  33

Full Name:  William Edward Thomas, Jr.

Nickname:  "Chilly Willy"

Location:  Puddingstone Lake, San Dimas, California

Event:  International Hot Boat Association Summer Nationals

Accident Date:  June 11, 1989

Boat:  

Biographical:  He lost control and his boat flipped when he was traveling about 160 MPH.  He was from Alta Loma, California.

Sources

"Boat racing," Milwaukee Journal, June 12, 1989

"Boat racing," Chicago Sun-Times, June 12, 1989

"Dragboat racer killed when his craft flips," Los Angeles Times, June 12, 1989

Photos

Billy Todd

Born:  November 22, 1931

Died:  September 20, 1986

Buried: New Auburn Cemetery, Auburn, California

Age:  54

Full Name:  William Lee Todd

Nickname: 

Location:  Castaic Lake, California

Event:  Sundance Sports Drag Boat Nationals

Accident Date:  September 20, 1986

Boat:  "Billy the Kid" #531

Biographical:  He had been clocked at 205 MPH at 5.46 seconds on his run  after which his boat catapulted thirty feet into the air and came down on top of him.  It was thought that possibly a prop blade had snapped.  He was transported by helicopter to Holy Cross Hospital in Mission Hills where he died from his injuries about six hours after the crash.  He was from Auburn, California, and was survived by his wife, Lyn.

Sources

"Driver killed in drag boat accident at Castaic," Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1986

Photos

http://dragboatracing.com/Community/Forums/tabid/54/aft/39156/Default.aspx  (accessed 7/26/10)

 

Denny Vachal

Born:  August 23, 1943

Died:  May 25, 1986

Buried: 

Age:  42

Full Name:  Denny Lee Vachal

Nickname: 

Location:  Red Bluff, California

Event:  

Accident Date:  May 25, 1986

Boat:  

Biographical: 

Sources

http://www.riverracer.net/forums/archive/index.php/t-36718.html (accessed 7/26/10)

California Death Index  (Denny Lee Vachal, born Aug. 23, 1943 in Nebraska, died May 25, 1986 in Tehama Co., mother’s maiden name was Osborne)

Photos

Ancestry.com

 

 

Jerry Wallace

Born:  April 19, 1946

Died:  April 2, 1991

Buried:  Lewisville, Texas

Age:  44

Full Name:  Jerry C. Wallace

Nickname: 

Location:  Oak Hollow Lake, near High Point, North Carolina

Event:  

Accident Date:  July 24, 1988

Boat:  "Smokin' and Strokin'" PlaceCraft blown fuel jet class

Biographical:  He was injured in a crash and died in an Illinois hospital.  He suffered a spinal cord injury when he was thrown from his boat.  He spent several years in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities before passing away.  He began racing in 1984 competing in his brief career in unblown fuel jet, pro gas jet, and blown fuel jet.

Sources

Margaret Meier, e-mail communication to site administrator, Mar. 9-10, 15, 25, 2011

http://www.screamandfly.com/archive/index.php/t-213800.html (accessed 3/12/11)

http://www.performanceboats.com/jet-boats/72938-pop-placecraft.html (accessed 3/12/11)

Social Security Death Index

http://dragboatalley.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/16/32/12.html (accessed 3/12/11)

Photos

 

 

Jim Wright

Born:  March 28, 1934

Died:  September 12, 1982

Buried: Emmanuel Episcopal Church Cemetery, Powhatan, Virginia

Age:  47

Full Name:  James Willie Wright

Nickname:  "Porky"

Location:  Lake Lou Yeager, Litchfield, Illinois

Event:  

Accident Date:  September 12, 1982

Boat:  "Nitrofever"

Biographical:  He overshot the finish line at a speed estimated at over 200 MPH and crashed into the artificial lake's steep dirt bank.  He was thrown clear of the boat on impact.  He was taken from the water and transported to St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield where he was pronounced dead on arrival.  He was from Ashland, Virginia, and was the world record holder for propeller-driven boats.

Sources

"Wright, world record-holder for propeller-driven boats, killed," Los Angeles Times, September 13, 1982

Photos

Don Yates

Born:  October 9, 1928

Died:  September 24, 1987

Buried: 

Age:  58

Full Name:  Donald Jewell Yates

Nickname: 

Location:  Unknown

Event:  

Accident Date:  September 24, 1987

Boat:  

Biographical:  He lived in Manhattan Beach, California.

Sources

Social Security Death Index:  Donald J. Yates, born Oct. 9, 1928, last residence was Manhattan Beach, died Sep. 24, 1987, SS# issued in Calif. Before 1951

California Death Index:  Donald Jewell Yates, born Oct. 9, 1928 in Calif., died Sep. 24, 1987 in L.A. Co., mother’s maiden name was Yvett

California Birth Index:  Donald Jewel Yates, born Oct. 9, 1928 in LA Co., mother’s maiden name was Veyette (brother was Raymond Allan Yates, born Nov. 3, 1930,  and sister was Carolyn Gail Yates, born Apr. 29, 1932)

Photos

 

John Young

Born:  February 26, 1950

Died:  October 31, 1986

Buried: 

Age:  36

Full Name: John William Young

Nickname: 

Location:  Lake Ming, near Bakersfield, California

Event:  NDBA championships

Accident Date:  October 31, 1986

Boat:  

Biographical:  During time trials, his boat flipped and crashed.  He was from Ontario, California.

Sources

"Newswire," Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1986

Photos

Barry Zenovka

Born:  January 31, 1947

Died:  April 10, 1983

Buried: Harbor Lawn-Mount Olive Memorial Park, Costa Mesa, California

Age:  36

Full Name:  Barry Lewis Zenovka

Nickname: 

Location:  Irvine Lake, California

Event:  Coors Western Championship

Accident Date:  April 9, 1983

Boat:  "Instant Trouble"

Biographical:  The fatal crash occurred during qualifying.  His boat flipped over at the finish line.  He was transported to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana where he died the next day from injuries.  He was from Westminster, California.

Sources

"Driver of race boat dies," Los Angeles Times, April 11, 1983

"20,000 turn out after boat racing accidents," Los Angeles Times, April 11, 1983

California Death Index  (Barry Lewis Zenovka, born January 31, 1947 in Calif., died April 10, 1983 on Orange Co., mother’s maiden name was Ault)

Social Security Death Index  (Barry Zenovka, born Jan. 31, 1947, died Apr. 1983, SS# issued in Calif. In 1962)

California Birth Index  (Barry Lewis Zenovka, born Jan. 31, 1947 in L.A. Co., mother’s maiden name was Ault)

Photos