What should have been a day of fun turned to disaster Thursday afternoon when a 50-foot powerboat heading south on the bayside of Marathon flipped over, ending in the death of a Long Island man and injuring two.
Longtime powerboat racer Joseph Sgro, 63, died from his injuries following the accident, said Carol Lyn Parrish, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission public information coordinator.
There were four other men, all from New York, on the boat with Sgro just before noon about a quarter mile offshore near the 33rd Street boat ramp, mile marker 48.5.
The brand-new SB 50 powerboat made by Rhode Island-based manufacturer Outerlimits was part of the Florida Powerboat Club’s annual poker run, with boats cruising 180 miles from Miami to Key West through the “winding backwaters” of the Keys, according to the club’s website. The trip ends in Key West for the 37th annual Key West Super Boat International World Championship, happening through Sunday.
Parrish said Joseph Cibellis, 52, was at the helm while Sgro was operating the throttles. Joseph Nestola, 56, Joseph Latona, 60, and Steven Kropp, 60, were passengers.
“They could have snagged on something, the waves could have rolled the boat — there are a whole lot of variables we don’t know,” said FWC Capt. David Dipre.
Nestola and Latona were taken to Fishermen’s Community Hospital in Marathon for treatment while Cibellis and Krupp were not hurt.
An Outerlimits employee who declined to be named said the 50-foot Outerlimits boat was headed to Key West for display during race weekend.
According to a Newsday article from 2009, Sgro was a self-proclaimed adrenaline junky who competed in powerboat races all over the world with sponsor Lucas Oil. He leaves behind his wife, Eileen, and six children ranging in age from 15 to 38.
Sgro bought the assets of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats in 2015 after his longtime friend and founder of the company Mike Fiore died in a high-speed powerboat crash during the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout the year prior.
Powerboats are as aerodynamic as they are hydrodynamic, Dipre said.
“The only thing in the water many times is the prop and the lower part of the unit on the motor, and they’re going so fast they’re flying along the top of the water. If you get any gust of wind or a chop of a wave that pushes your bow up, it pushes your aerodynamics off,” he said.
Dipre said the FWC will investigate what happened with data from the boat’s GPS system and motor.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219