The Trump Files: The Deadly Powerboat Race Donald Hosted in Atlantic City

Ivylise Simones

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Until the election, we’re bringing you “The Trump Files,” a daily dose of telling episodes, strange but true stories, or curious scenes from the life of GOP nominee Donald Trump.

Throughout most of the 1980s, the American Power Boat Association held its world championship races in the calm waters off Key West, Florida. But in 1988, Donald Trump outbid Key West and moved the 1989 edition of the high-speed spectacle up to Atlantic City to help lure more people to his casinos.

Powerboat racers were not happy. Errol Lanier? told South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper that there was “no chance” that the water in Atlantic City would be calm. “People who have to race there next October will find it atrocious,” he said. “Many racers said the APBA should have realized that scheduling a race in New Jersey in mid-October was risky at best,” the Miami Herald later noted.

They were right. The Washington Post reported that the first day of the competition “was a minor disaster as more than half of the superboat fleet, including [Miami Vice star Don] Johnson’s new catamaran, failed to finish.” Then bad weather canceled the races for four straight days, leaving the spectators and racers fuming. “The organization of this championship has been very bad,” Italian racer Eduardo Polli told the Post

None of this seemed to bother Trump, though. His casinos were doing bumper business thanks to the bored and stranded race fans. “I walked through the [Trump] Castle today and it’s Boomtown, U.S.A.,” he crowed to the Post. “The worse the weather, the better for business.”

When racing finally resumed, the event turned deadly when the Team Skater boat got into a horrific accident. “The 32-foot racing boat was headed southwest about 2 1/2 miles from the starting line when its bow launched into the air, hooked the water and rolled, landing upright,” the Associated Press reported. Driver Kevin Brown was killed instantly, while his crewmate, James Dyke, survived with minor injuries. Trump does not appear to have ever commented on Brown’s death.

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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