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Key West Boating Accident: Widow Files Wrongful Death Suit

Last November, Joey Gratton and Stephen Page were racing towards victory in the Key West Super Boat World Championship when disaster struck in the final law of the race–Gratton and Page’s 38-foot catamaran overturned as the drivers rounded the first turn. Page was able to exit the boat through an escape hatch built into the floor of the cockpit, but Gratton remained trapped by the harness system that was designed to keep him safe during races. The boat began to sink with Gratton trapped inside. Gratton drowned as the boat went under water.

Gratton’s widow, Priscilla Gratton, has filed a wrongful death suit in Broward Circuit Court against John Carbonell, the President of Super Boat International Productions, Inc. and against the race’s medical directors, Donald DiPetrillo and Brian Haff. The suit alleges that Gratton was alive and uninjured following the crash, but that Carbonell refused to deploy certified rescue dive paramedics in an effort to avoid their cost. Instead, the suit alleges, Carbonell ordered two “untrained, inexperienced and ill-equipped volunteers” on a nearby boat to respond to the crash. The volunteers took several minutes to reach the boat, and by the time they arrived, the suit claims, Gratton was already trapped inside, his emergency oxygen tank was depleted, and as a result, Gratton drowned.

In the complaint, filed with the Court in February, former president of the American Power Boat Association Michael Allweiss stated, “This should have been a routine, successful rescue, had Defendants merely followed standard industry practices, procedures and [Super Boat International’s] own rules.” Gratton’s death followed the drowning deaths of two other racers at the event’s opening two days earlier. The wrongful death suit also alleges gross negligence, claiming Carbonell prevented rescue personnel from conducting pre-race safety inspections in an effort to avoid liability in light of a crash.

Widow files suit over powerboat racer’s death in Key West race, February 20, 2012.

Sadly, three professional racers lost their lives in an organized event out on the water. Every day, inexperienced drivers take to the water in South Florida for a day of fun and sun out on their boats. No one plans to be in a boat accident, however, when waters are rough or alcohol use is coupled with an inexperienced driver, tragic injuries and fatalities can result. The personal injury attorneys at the Friedland | Carmona are dedicated to helping tragic boating accident and wrongful death victims and their families. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of another person’s negligence actions or inactions, contact the Friedland | Carmona today! The Miami personal injury attorneys are committed to helping accident victims!

The Miami motor vehicle accident attorneys at the Friedland | Carmona handle all types of motor vehicle accidents throughout the state of Florida, including Boca Raton, Homestead, North Miami, South Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Pembroke Pines, Hialeah, Kendall, Aventura, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. The Friedland | Carmona handles all types of personal injury cases, including wrongful death, defective products, medical malpractice, slip and falls and construction site injuries. Call the Miami personal injury attorneys at (305) 661-2008 for your free consultation. Call today and let our family take care of your family!

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