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Key West Safety Concerns; First Hand...

Old 11-21-2011, 09:01 PM
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Default Key West Safety Concerns; First Hand...

This post is very difficult for me to write. Ever since I was told of Bob Morgan's passing, I have been contemplating how to express my feelings. I even went so far as to write a letter to Sue Morgan, Bob's wife. I just haven't been able to send the letter, because I don't know if it is the right time, or if it will ever be the right time.

For the past four years, I have volunteered to tow my boat down to Key West, and be a medical boat for the Key West races. This year was extremely difficult. I had 2 divers on my boat, and was the first medical boat to arrive at the scene of Bob and JT's crash. By the time we got from our turn, to the crash, only a little over a minute of time had passed. One diver had already been deployed from a helicopter, and our two divers were in the water as soon as we arrived.

Within a couple of minutes, one of our divers brought Bob to the surface. As he was lifting Bob, my buddy and I helped get him on to the boat. At this time, Bob was unconscious. Without going into great detail, CPR was being performed on Bob. The diver instructed me to get the PA (Physicians Assistant) from the other boat. As the PA got on our boat, he realized that we had to get Bob to the ambulance ASAP. He said, "We have to go now!". As the PA and the diver continued to work on Bob, I got on the radio to speak with race control. I told them that we had Bob on our boat, and asked where we were to go. We were told to go to the Coast Guard station. Understand, we are not from that area, and had no idea as to where the Coast Guard station was located. I asked the PA and the diver to please point us in the right direction. The PA picked his head up, and pointed towards the Coast Guard Station. As we headed over to the Coast Guard station, we had 2 Cat boats pass us on each side. At the time, this didn't seem like a big deal, but knowing how little visibility they have, especially at that speed, it is a big deal.

As we approached the Coast Guard station, I heard the PA say, "He is breathing! He is breathing!" As I looked back, I saw Bob breathing on his one, and trying to cough up some of the water in his lungs. He was also moving both his hands, in a clasping motion. Once we got to the Coast Guard station, there was large Coast Guard Cutter, with lots of personel on board. I then shouted, "We have a severly injured racer on board; we need help now!" These Coast Guard men and women just looked at us in disbelief. They did not know what to do, nor where to instruct us to go. Finally, one of them said, pull up to the floating pier behind the Cutter. As we did, I was on the radio again with Race Control. I said, "We are at the Coast Guard station, and no one is here! No one is here to help us!" Race Control answered back, "Calm down; the ambulance is on it's way." Shortly thereafter, I heard the ambulance approaching.

Once we were able to secure Bob to a back board, he was loaded into the ambulance. At this point, JT was also being loaded into another ambulance. All of us on our boat, just sat there, thinking about what we just witnessed. When our diver came back to our boat, he was encouraged with Bob's prognosis, but wasn't as confident about JT's. We actually felt as though we had helped Bob, and it was a good feeling.

Later that night, I got a call from someone with SBI. The message on my cell phone was cut off, but I understood that they wanted to speak with me about the accident that afternoon. So, around 7 PM, I drove back down to the pits with my buddy who was on the boat with me. As we got to the SBI trailer, we were asked inside. There were 4 people from SBI there, including John Carbonell. When we got in, the first thing we were told was, "We called you in here tonight, because we want to make sure you don't speak with anyone about what happened today." I said, "That isn't a problem, because I am not from around here, and don't know that many people." Then, I tried to let them know that I thought there were a couple of things that could be done differently in the future, to help with safety. As I began to speak, I was interrupted, and told, "You know, you did a great job. We will see you on Friday", as they pushed me out the door, and shut it behind me.

The next morning, there was a memorial for Bob and JT. The following day, was Friday, the 2nd day of races. Right after the driver's meeting, I was brought to the side by a SBI official, and told, "You did not see the racers helmets from yesterday, right?" Before I could even answer, I was told again, "I just wanted to make sure you knew that you did not see those helmets."

I was in disbelief. There was no compassion from SBI towards the racers, their families or the other racers in Key West. Their only concern was whether or not they were going to be sued, and how was the best way to handle that situation.

In the 2nd day of racing, again there was another accident involving a Cat. This time, it was Stephen Page and Joey Gratton. This particular crash happened on the opposite side of the course from where we were stationed. By the time we got there, as they were asking for more divers to help, they had both racers on the transport boats. From what we were told later in the day by our divers, was that they had a difficult time getting the hatches opened on this boat; delaying getting both racers out of the boat.

First and foremost, I know for a fact that none of the problems we experienced as a Medical boat, contributed to the deaths of Bob or JT. Their injuries were just too much for them to overcome.

However, I tried to relate a couple of safety issues to SBI, but I felt as though they just did not want to hear anything I had to say.

These are just a couple of things that i think should be considered:
1. Every boat, medical, sweep, transport, or even pace boats should have a meeting before each race day, and be given specific instrucitons if a serious accident was to happen. It should matter if you are not supposed to transport a patient or not. In my case, we were not supposed to transport a patient, but we had to. By not knowing where to go, or who to contact, this could cost more time in a critical situation.

2. When medical personel tell Race Control the severity of an accident, like a unconcious person, the race should be stopped, and everyone involved should be focusing on how to get the injured help ASAP. When we had two race boats have to go around us on each side, that could have been a very bad accident.

3. Divers should have the equipment and knowledge necessary to opend a hatch on any boat, at any time.

4. There should be an ambulance at every race; immediately available to help if needed.

I would also like to point out how great the divers on my boat and the PA handled the situation, and kept everyone on the boat calm and focused. They did an amazing job controlling the situation, and giving Bob the best treatment possible.

This was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. In racing, there will always be accidents, and there will always be deaths. However, I think all organizations can learn from these types of accidents.

My heart goes out to the families of Bob, JT and Joey. I never met Bob, until he was put on to our boat. I wished I could have met him just a little bit earlier; I have heard so many good things about him and the other two racers.
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Old 11-21-2011, 09:43 PM
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I have used my boat as a dive rescue boat,I'm glad I never had to do what you did. While I think that you did everything you could have possibly its something that you will be thinking about for a while. Please understand I mean no disrespect but you should really see a psychologist,what you went through was very traumatic. Thank you for your service.
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Old 11-21-2011, 09:44 PM
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Very sobering and informative Post,Thank You.
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Old 11-21-2011, 09:47 PM
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Great post! And you are right there are a lot of things that need to be changed. For JC a friend of mine to not listen is a shame. I will have to discuss this with him. How can a rescue team not know where to take and injured person is in acceptable.

Last edited by chewiekw; 11-21-2011 at 09:50 PM.
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Old 11-21-2011, 09:54 PM
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Thank you for your insight. In times like this we all try and find reasons for what/why/how etc...

My hope is we can all learn from these unfortunate events, rather it be from the safety side of operation or the changes needed in the boats themselves. Lets all concentrate our efforts on making things better.

On a personal note, thank you for your help, Bob was a good friend, he will be missed...
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Old 11-21-2011, 10:17 PM
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It’s not surprising that you feel tongue-tied at the prospect of communicating to Bob's wife. In this situation, words do seem inadequate. There is always the fear of saying something “wrong,” something that might offend, make you look foolish or seem insensitive. Yet I’ve found the most appreciated words are usually those that first come to mind when you hear the terrible news, or witness a traumatic event,such as “This is such a tragedy. I can’t believe it. I’m so sorry.” Speaking your unvarnished feelings validates the enormity of what has happened and makes a connection with those left behind

If you have been helping someone involved in a traumatic event, don’t forget that you will be impacted by hearing the details of their experiences and being a close witness to their pain, grief, outcome, death and often the confusion

Non medical community, often worry about how to help others after something traumatic has happened to them. If you happen to be “on the scene” at a traumatic event, you may feel that you don’t know what to do to help others. If someone you know is going through a hard time after a traumatic event, you might worry that you are just “getting in the way” and “intruding”, or that you will say the “wrong thing”. You did the best you could under the circumstances you describe.

As a general guide, think about what you would need or want from a friend after a similar traumatic event. How would you want someone to treat your family, or fellow racer if this had happened to them? This may help you figure out how to best support others. Remember:You are not responsible for having the “right answer” to any ( or all ) questions that anyone asks about the event, why it happened, or what it means.

We find that people who have just experienced a traumatic event may feel overwhelmed by intense emotions, including anger. Sometimes that anger can be directed towards you, even when it seems irrational. This can be hurtful and difficult, but try to stay calm and remember not to take it personally. I remember that we personally spoke about this in KW,but thanks for sharing your thoughts here tonight.



"Doc" J
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Old 11-21-2011, 10:33 PM
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Not having specific locations for injured transfer and instructions for medical boats and amublance deployment is absolutely critical and required before racing should even start! What does this instruction from SBI officials mean when they are telling medical personel who were on scene they did not see the helmets? What was the issue with the helmets and why was this gentlemen instructed so??? This needs more clarification.
I don't like the sound of this.

Best Regards,
Ray @ Raylar
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Old 11-21-2011, 10:54 PM
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thank you for your post, i was with the team and had worked for the morgans on and off since i was 14, i am 36 now.. thank you.
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Old 11-21-2011, 11:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Penaltybox View Post
This post is very difficult for me to write. Ever since I was told of Bob Morgan's passing, I have been contemplating how to express my feelings. I even went so far as to write a letter to Sue Morgan, Bob's wife. I just haven't been able to send the letter, because I don't know if it is the right time, or if it will ever be the right time.

For the past four years, I have volunteered to tow my boat down to Key West, and be a medical boat for the Key West races. This year was extremely difficult. I had 2 divers on my boat, and was the first medical boat to arrive at the scene of Bob and JT's crash. By the time we got from our turn, to the crash, only a little over a minute of time had passed. One diver had already been deployed from a helicopter, and our two divers were in the water as soon as we arrived.

Within a couple of minutes, one of our divers brought Bob to the surface. As he was lifting Bob, my buddy and I helped get him on to the boat. At this time, Bob was unconscious. Without going into great detail, CPR was being performed on Bob. The diver instructed me to get the PA (Physicians Assistant) from the other boat. As the PA got on our boat, he realized that we had to get Bob to the ambulance ASAP. He said, "We have to go now!". As the PA and the diver continued to work on Bob, I got on the radio to speak with race control. I told them that we had Bob on our boat, and asked where we were to go. We were told to go to the Coast Guard station. Understand, we are not from that area, and had no idea as to where the Coast Guard station was located. I asked the PA and the diver to please point us in the right direction. The PA picked his head up, and pointed towards the Coast Guard Station. As we headed over to the Coast Guard station, we had 2 Cat boats pass us on each side. At the time, this didn't seem like a big deal, but knowing how little visibility they have, especially at that speed, it is a big deal.

As we approached the Coast Guard station, I heard the PA say, "He is breathing! He is breathing!" As I looked back, I saw Bob breathing on his one, and trying to cough up some of the water in his lungs. He was also moving both his hands, in a clasping motion. Once we got to the Coast Guard station, there was large Coast Guard Cutter, with lots of personel on board. I then shouted, "We have a severly injured racer on board; we need help now!" These Coast Guard men and women just looked at us in disbelief. They did not know what to do, nor where to instruct us to go. Finally, one of them said, pull up to the floating pier behind the Cutter. As we did, I was on the radio again with Race Control. I said, "We are at the Coast Guard station, and no one is here! No one is here to help us!" Race Control answered back, "Calm down; the ambulance is on it's way." Shortly thereafter, I heard the ambulance approaching.

Once we were able to secure Bob to a back board, he was loaded into the ambulance. At this point, JT was also being loaded into another ambulance. All of us on our boat, just sat there, thinking about what we just witnessed. When our diver came back to our boat, he was encouraged with Bob's prognosis, but wasn't as confident about JT's. We actually felt as though we had helped Bob, and it was a good feeling.

Later that night, I got a call from someone with SBI. The message on my cell phone was cut off, but I understood that they wanted to speak with me about the accident that afternoon. So, around 7 PM, I drove back down to the pits with my buddy who was on the boat with me. As we got to the SBI trailer, we were asked inside. There were 4 people from SBI there, including John Carbonell. When we got in, the first thing we were told was, "We called you in here tonight, because we want to make sure you don't speak with anyone about what happened today." I said, "That isn't a problem, because I am not from around here, and don't know that many people." Then, I tried to let them know that I thought there were a couple of things that could be done differently in the future, to help with safety. As I began to speak, I was interrupted, and told, "You know, you did a great job. We will see you on Friday", as they pushed me out the door, and shut it behind me.

The next morning, there was a memorial for Bob and JT. The following day, was Friday, the 2nd day of races. Right after the driver's meeting, I was brought to the side by a SBI official, and told, "You did not see the racers helmets from yesterday, right?" Before I could even answer, I was told again, "I just wanted to make sure you knew that you did not see those helmets."

I was in disbelief. There was no compassion from SBI towards the racers, their families or the other racers in Key West. Their only concern was whether or not they were going to be sued, and how was the best way to handle that situation.

In the 2nd day of racing, again there was another accident involving a Cat. This time, it was Stephen Page and Joey Gratton. This particular crash happened on the opposite side of the course from where we were stationed. By the time we got there, as they were asking for more divers to help, they had both racers on the transport boats. From what we were told later in the day by our divers, was that they had a difficult time getting the hatches opened on this boat; delaying getting both racers out of the boat.

First and foremost, I know for a fact that none of the problems we experienced as a Medical boat, contributed to the deaths of Bob or JT. Their injuries were just too much for them to overcome.

However, I tried to relate a couple of safety issues to SBI, but I felt as though they just did not want to hear anything I had to say.

These are just a couple of things that i think should be considered:
1. Every boat, medical, sweep, transport, or even pace boats should have a meeting before each race day, and be given specific instrucitons if a serious accident was to happen. It should matter if you are not supposed to transport a patient or not. In my case, we were not supposed to transport a patient, but we had to. By not knowing where to go, or who to contact, this could cost more time in a critical situation.

2. When medical personel tell Race Control the severity of an accident, like a unconcious person, the race should be stopped, and everyone involved should be focusing on how to get the injured help ASAP. When we had two race boats have to go around us on each side, that could have been a very bad accident.

3. Divers should have the equipment and knowledge necessary to opend a hatch on any boat, at any time.

4. There should be an ambulance at every race; immediately available to help if needed.

I would also like to point out how great the divers on my boat and the PA handled the situation, and kept everyone on the boat calm and focused. They did an amazing job controlling the situation, and giving Bob the best treatment possible.

This was the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. In racing, there will always be accidents, and there will always be deaths. However, I think all organizations can learn from these types of accidents.

My heart goes out to the families of Bob, JT and Joey. I never met Bob, until he was put on to our boat. I wished I could have met him just a little bit earlier; I have heard so many good things about him and the other two racers.
Thank you for your post, your service, and your concern. Hopefully , this information won't fall on deaf ears. As a former racer myself, and a doctor, I've had concerns about some of the safety procedures that are in place in Key West. Unless someone steps up to the plate, and demands changes, I don't know that that will happen. Thanks again!
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Old 11-21-2011, 11:05 PM
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first i want to say that my thaughts and prayers go out to the families of the three men who passed in key west,i was there,it was my first time to attend one of these races.what i am now going to say might not sit well with everybody,but it is just my observation of the situation.i feel that sbi needs to change the way they look at safety at these races,in my opinion,something needs to be done to make these boats safer in a blowover,or a crash of any type.i owned a pro mod drag boat for several years,for those of you not familiar,a pro mod is a quarter mile capsual hydro running on a 7 second index,if u run 6.99,you break out and loose the race.pro mod runs 170 to 180 in the quarter mile.this is rellitivly slow compared to top alcohol hydro and top fuel hydro.pro classes all have a safety capsuel that the driver is belted into and the driver wears a helmet that supplys breathing air during the run.before these safety capsuels were implimented,there were many fatilitys in drag boat racing.i am not an engineer,and i dont know the answer to how to make these boats safer,but as a spectator,i can see that something needs to be done.once again,this is just my opinion,and i will not get into a pizzing contest with anyone about this.BOB JT AND JOEY REST IN PEACE.
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