Witness Sees Speed Boat Flip, Driver Die - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

04/23/04

Witness Sees Speed Boat Flip, Driver Die

From the shore, you could see a boat towing the capsized racing vessel past Treasure Bay.

Treasure Bay beverage supervisor Kevin Roberson was on a break when he saw the speed boat crash.

"As we were watching all amazed, all of a sudden the nose went up, it flipped and it capsized," Roberson said. "He hit the top of the water, and he kind of did one barrel roll."

Roberson had casino security call 911. According to the witness and authorities, a nearby fishing boat reached the racing team first.

"We didn't see anybody pop up for awhile," Roberson said, pointing to the spot where the boat flew into the air. "We were thinking maybe they were on the other side of the boat. But then finally one of the guys was on top of the boat, the fishing boat came by, all the rescue boats and stuff came out."

The boat involved was #24 Airborne Big Thunder. The Smokin the Sound web site lists the owner/driver as Randy Linebach, and the throttle man as Charlie Haimes.

By 1:00, word of the water disaster spread to other race teams.

This throttle man is Jerry Gilbreath.

"Randy was a very close friend of mine. It hasn't totally sunk in, quite honestly," he said.

It took almost two hours to tow the number 24 boat to the Coast Guard's Gulfport headquarters. That's where authorities looked into why the speed boat flipped over.

Gilbreath didn't need to know why. To him, when you race in a risk filled sport, why never matters.

"These things happen," the throttleman said. "But we have to keep going forward. And it makes you stronger as a group. When we lose one of our own, it makes us stronger."

by Brad Kessie

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