TRIBUTES have been paid to the powerboat racer who died after a high-speed crash in Weymouth Bay.

Mike Lovell, from Southampton, suffered multiple injuries in the horrific accident, which happened during the P1 SuperStock UK Champ-ionship event on Sunday afternoon.

The 27-year-old was airlifted to Southampton General Hospital but sadly died during the night.

His navigator Dan Whapples, 32, from Warsash, underwent surgery yesterday and remains in a serious but stable condition.

Martin Braybrook, the owner of the Brookspeed team which both men were racing with, said Mr Lovell, who was single, was a vital member of the team and a hard worker.

He said: “Mike was very popular and much loved by his colleagues and his peers. He touched the lives of many during his short time, and we all feel stunned at his loss.

“There is nothing that can salve this great sadness, and love and thoughts go to his family and friends. When the opportunity arose for him to be involved in the amateur racing he embraced it whole-heartedly. He loved every second of it – living his dream.”

A spokesman for Power-boat P1 said: “Our thoughts are with the whole powerboat community and particularly with Mike and Dan's family and friends.”

Weymouth and Portland Mayor Councillor Marg-aret Leicester said she was saddened and shocked by the tragic news. She said: “It’s a horrible thing to happen. My thoughts go out to the family, it’s so very sad for them and everyone involved.

“Obviously we’re very sad that this happened, especially off our waters.”

South Dorset MP Richard Drax said: “My condolences go to Mike Lovell, his family and friends and to Dan Whapples who survived and is seriously injured.

“I’m very sad for everyone involved in this. It seems like one of these ghastly freak accidents.”

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council and the organisers both said it is too early to comment on whether the event will be held in Weymouth in the future.

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch is investigating the circumstances of the crash.

A spokesman said: “We are aware of the incident in Weymouth and we are making our initial enquiries.”

A police spokesman said last night that officers were appealing for witnesses to the crash to come forward. A coroner has been informed.

‘Thoughts with family’

MESSAGES of sympathy from the powerboat community have been left on Facebook and Twitter.

Racer Dean Stoneman said: “So sad about the tragic death of Mike Lovell, our thoughts are with his family.”

Nigel Hindmarsh, another driver, said: “Tragic, tragic news. Mike was a gentleman and a friend to all of us – a kind-hearted man who was always happy.”

‘We need A helicopter’

DORSET’S emergency services launched a major rescue operation involving ambulances, rescue helicopters, coastguard teams and the police.

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 paramedics before being airlifted to Southampton Hospital.

Mr Whapples was taken onto the beach and placed in the air ambulance.

Weymouth Lifeboat took Mr Lovell out into the bay where he was winched into the Portland Coastguard rescue helicopter.

Coun Leicester said: “It really shows again how much we need the rescue helicopter, it’s imperative that we have the ability to react quickly in these situations.”

Mr Drax said: “Yet again tragically we needed the helicopter and the wonderful thing is that it was on the scene in a matter of minutes.

“This accident is a reminder of its vital significance for the cover along the south coast.”

MR LOVELL is the second British powerboat fatality this year, following the death of William Nocker in a high-speed crash at the Gabon Grand Prix in Africa in July.

Veteran British powerboat driver Ian Stirling was fatally injured at Harwich in 2010 when his boat was involved in another high-speed crash.