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Smith Brothers Offshore Racing Team Boat Recovered...

May 31, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

The OPA Racing National and World Championship winning Smith Brothers Offshore Racing / CRC Automotive Joker Powerboats hull was recovered from the bottom of the at Atlantic Ocean for over a week.


BAY HEAD - Divers and sailors reclaimed a sunken speedboat from the ocean floor Tuesday, nine days after she sank following a fatal crash against a competing craft in the Offshore Grand Prix.

Shortly after 5 p.m., work crews pulled the Smith Brothers CRC out of the Manasquan Inlet in Point Pleasant Beach. A crane lifted the speedboat onto a boat trailer attached to a pickup truck at Ken's Landing Marina.

Early Tuesday, Stephen Reid, Point Pleasant Beach mayor, said the Berkeley Underwater Search and Rescue Team had located the Smith Brothers CRC. The race was based out of Point Pleasant Beach.

Later, drivers pumped water out of the hull and engine areas as the Smith Brothers sat on the seafloor off Bay Head. Three boats pulled the 26-foot-long racing vessel through the Atlantic into the Manasquan Inlet that afternoon.

The boat is named for its racing team, brothers Richard and Peter Smith, who were thrown from the boat in the fatal May 21 crash.

David Raabe, a 38-year-old throttleman on a speedboat named the "Repeat Offender," was killed in the crash. His teammate, driver James Byrne of Nutley, suffered serious injuries.

Officials said the crash occurred when the Repeat Offender turned unexpectedly in front of the other boat, authorities said at the time. The Smith Brothers went airborne, then came down on top of the Offender.

As the boat sat in the inlet Tuesday, chipping paint and torn seats were the only visible signs of damage to the vessel. Crews had searched for the Smith Brothers for days before locating the boat over the weekend, off Johnson Street in Bay Head. 

Numerous divers plunged about 40 feet to raise the boat, where they had to rely exclusively on touch because of scarce visibility, said Chet Nesley, chief diver with the Point Pleasant Beach First Aid Rescue Dive Team. 

After raising the boat with lift bags, it then took about four and a half hours - and patience - to bring the boat back to the inlet against the outgoing tide, Nesley said.  

"A wounded cat with two legs could go faster than we were going," said Nesley, 64, who has been diving since 1967.

Even with about 16 divers, the effort wasn't easy, said Eddie "Smitty" Smith, president of the Offshore Powerboat Association. 

"You can't see an inch in front of you," Richard Zeller, the assistant chief of the Berkeley Township Underwater Search and Rescue Squad, said.

Work crews recover the Smith Brothers race boat. After

Work crews recover the Smith Brothers race boat. After lifting it from the ocean floor they towed up north to the Manasquan Inlet and then hoisted it out of the water with a crane at Ken's Landing. The boat had sank after a crash during the Offshore Grand Prix on May 21. Point Pleasant Beach, NJ Tuesday, May 30, 2017 @dhoodhood   Doug Hood

Divers had been searching for the Smith Brothers on and off since the crash, interrupted by waves and weather. The New Jersey State Police Marine Unit searched alongside the Berkeley volunteer squad.

Although they were thrown from their boat, Richard and Peter Smith declined medical treatment on the day of the crash, though they provided blood samples to the authorities.

Reid said that Byrne's condition has improved in the days since the crash, and the investigation into the cause of the crash continues.

Raabe, of Lacey, worked as a financial adviser and boated in his downtime. He "claimed checkered flags in his racing career and also saw the back of many a tow boat," according to his obituary.

"It feels wonderful that different organizations and agencies came together to help the OPA (Offshore Powerboat Association) in a time of sorrow," Zeller said.

Alex N. Gecan: 732-643-4043;


Hopefully we will be able to see this National and World Championship boat back on the water some day soon.


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