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

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This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files”—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on September 14, 2016.

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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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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