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Powerboat driver dies after high-speed crash
A POWERBOAT racer has died after his craft flipped over during a high-speed race in Weymouth Bay.
Mike Lovell, 27, from Southampton, suffered multiple injuries when his boat crashed yesterday afternoon.
Despite being airlifted to Southampton General Hospital, race organisers P1 SuperStock confirmed Mr Lovell has died overnight.
His navigator Dan Whapples, 32, also from Southampton, remains in a serious but stable condition.
The horrific accident happened during the final race of a national powerboat racing championship finale which the town hosted for the first time at the weekend.
Both men were thrown into the water and suffered serious multiple injuries.
The incident sparked a major rescue operation involving ambulances, rescue helicopters, coastguard teams and the police.
The race was immediately cancelled and an investigation into the circumstances of the crash launched by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.
The men were plucked from the water by the race medical team and taken to the harbourside near the Pavilion where they were treated by South West Ambulance paramedics for around an hour before being airlifted to Southampton Hospital.
A section of the Esplanade was closed to allow emergency vehicles to get to the harbour and part of the beach was cleared to allow the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance to land.
Weymouth Lifeboat took Mr Lovell out into the bay where he was winched into the Portland Coastguard rescue helicopter.
Mr Whapples was taken onto the beach and placed in the air ambulance.
Crowds of people lined the edge of the police cordon and the water's edge to watch the rescue operation and traffic backed up along the seafront and through town due to the road closure.
Top names in watersports had been battling it out on the waves during the two-day P1 SuperStock UK Championship in which powerboats travel up to 70mph.
Dozens of spectators watching the race from the Pleasure Pier and the seafront looked on in horror as the boat crashed.
Bob Bromage, from Coventry, said he was shocked to see the boat tip over in the middle of the race.
He said: “I was watching one of the races and one of the boats just went upside down.
“I couldn't believe it, you just don't expect something like that to happen.
“It just flipped over and the guys went into the water.
“The race was stopped and they towed the boat in and brought the guys out of the water.
“They announced over the speaker what had happened and stopped the race.”
Jane Evans, from Cornwall, said: “The boat was in the middle of the pack and then it seemed to hit the wash of another one and it just went onto its side.
“The next thing I saw it was upside down.
“I could see their helmets in the water and then they brought them in.”
Another witness, who did not want to be named, said: “I was watching the race and then one of the boats just turned over.
“I looked pretty bad. It didn't hit anything, it was just an accident.”
Organisers said both the men suffered serious injuries in the accident on Sunday afternoon and Mr Lovell succumbed to his injuries overnight.
Simon North, of P1 Superstock said: “Following a powerboat incident in Weymouth yesterday, Mike Lovell and Dan Whapples both sustained serious injuries and were air-lifted to Southampton General Hospital.
“Overnight Mike Lovell sadly succumbed to his injuries.
“Dan Whapples is in a serious but stable condition.
“Our thoughts are with the whole powerboat community and particularly with Mike and Dan's family and friends.”
A spokesman for Portland Coastguard said: “At 2.29pm Portland Coastguard was alerted to an accident involving a powerboat which had flipped over.
“Two people on board a powerboat have been rescued from the sea.
“The casualties were recovered from the water and to enable a quick transfer to hospital, the most severely injured casualty was taken aboard the Weymouth RNLI lifeboat and winched by the Portland Coastguard rescue helicopter to fly onwards to Southampton General Hospital.
“The second casualty was transferred to Southampton General Hospital by the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance.
“A report has been made to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.”
Crowds flocked to the Pleasure Peer to watch the national powerboat racing championship finale in Weymouth Bay.
Dozens of people lined the water's edge to see the four races over the weekend in the high-speed P1 SuperStock UK Championship.
Britain's top jet-ski riders also competed on the waters in the season finale of the 2012 P1 AquaX Championship, a brand-new style of jet-ski competition for sea-riding enthusiasts.
The event, which was originally planned to take place in Southampton, saw all four 2012 Aqua Cross titles decided.
The three other classes, 250, 200 and the Sea-Doo challenge, were decided in the last of the Weymouth races.
AquaX held the first four events in Plymouth, Hull, Eastbourne and Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
In the powerboat series, the 2012 champions in both the P1 250 and P1 150 classes battled it out in the dra¬matic finale to the series.