Three Dead in Two Days of High Speed Crashes on the Water

The second straight day of death on the waters of Lake Dora stunned thousands who watched Sunday as a retired racing champion and another boater died in a high-speed collision during an annual regatta.

Sunday’s crash took the life of Charles “Chuck” Woodruff, 64, of Jensen Beach, and Dea Wiseley, 73, of Sun City Center, near Tampa, FL. Both drivers were well-known in the classic raceboat show circuit — especially Woodruff, a former North American champion-turned-owner in hydroplane-class boat racing.

The fatal collision came one day after another driver — Mark Van Winkle, 53, of Stuart — died after being ejected from his raceboat and struck by a passing vessel. A passenger, Lorraine Moody of Lake Placid, also was ejected but was rescued by first-responders.

The deaths — the first in the regatta’s six-year history — cast a pall over this lakeside community, where the event drew an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 spectators, vendors and boaters annually. Sunday’s crowd was considerably smaller, however, after Saturday’s fatality.

“This is really tragic. Our sympathies go out to the families, of course,” Tavares spokeswoman Joyce Ross said. “The city’s devastated, just devastated.”

Known as the Spring Thunder Regatta, it was billed as the annual kickoff to the boating season. Traveling at speeds as fast as 80 mph, drivers of the vintage racing boats were supposed to showcase speed, not compete in races, according to the Classic Race Boat Association, which sponsored the regatta.

Several hours after Sunday’s fatal accident, there was a somber mood at Al’s Landing, a popular restaurant overlooking the area of Lake Dora where much of the regatta took place. Despite a cloudless, sunlit sky, warm breeze and guitar music echoing along the waters, the memory of the incidents still lingered.

Stefany Herrin, 29, said she was waiting tables at the restaurant when both accidents occurred. She recalled hearing an outcry from stunned patrons gathered on the outside veranda.

For the complete story, go to www.orlandosentinel.com.

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