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

Mother Jones illustration; Shutterstock

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

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.

 

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.