Freak Speedboat Crash on Potomac River Leaves 2 Men Dead

A freak accident during a speedboat competition on the Potomac River on Saturday left two men dead.

The deceased men, who are reportedly well-known speed boat racers, have been identified as James Melley, 49, and Garth Tagge, 61, according to Candy Thomson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police. Both men, who are from Georgia, were competing in the Potomac River Radar Run.

Police said Melley was navigating the Skater Powerboats 36-foot catamaran while Tagge was controlling its speed, CNN reported.

Both men were reportedly driving down a trail near Fairview Beach when the accident occurred. A disturbing video of the crash shows the boat flying off the water at top speed and flipping over; throwing both men into the river. The boat continues to spin the air before crashing.

Although both men were quickly saved from the water by rescuers who performed CPR on them, they were both pronounced dead at 12:40 p.m. on Saturday.

The cause of the speedboat accident is unclear. According to Speed On The Water, Melley and Tagge were on their second run of the day when the accident occurred. They had reportedly clocked a speed of 170-mph during their first run. The police are reportedly investigating the cause of the accident. At the moment, it is unclear whether the weather or a mechanical fault led to the speedboat crash.

According to CNN, the Potomac Radar River Run may have been unsanctioned as Maryland authorities claim they did not approve any speedboat competitions on the day.

Guy Booth, the owner of Tim’s II Restaurant and Crabhouse, which is near the site of the accident, explained that as part of the annual competition on the Potomac River, speedboats travel a mile-long course at top speed. Radar is used to ascertain which boat was the fastest, the Washington Post reported. Booth’s restaurant was reportedly one of the sponsors of the speedboat racing event.

The boat that Melley and Tagge were using was fitted with a pair of 1,500-plus horsepower engines, which can propel it to a speed of up to 190 mph, according to Speed On The Water. Earlier this year, Melley and Tagge hit 194 mph during a speedboat race in the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri to claim a top prize.

Potomac River Speedboat Crash
A speedboat passes over the shadow of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge cast on the Ohio River in Cincinnati. [Photo by John Minchillo/AP Photo]

Speedboats accidents appear to be common. This has led to calls for a regulation to ensure the safety of speedboat riders. At the speedboat competition in the Lake of the Ozarks where Melley and Tagge snagged the top prize in August, two men were also killed after their boat rose into the air and flipped over at top speed, according to Power Boat Nation. The deceased men have since been identified as Richard Prince and Bradley Dunphy.

Also in August, a drag boat racer landed in intensive care after his boat burst into flames while he was riding at a speed of about 240 mph during a competition in Texas. Although the boat scattered into pieces, the driver, who has been identified as Scotty Lumbart, survived the accident, according to the Daily Mail. However, he sustained spinal and facial fractures, which required him to be hospitalized for several weeks.

Last month, one man died, and another was hospitalized in critical condition after they were involved in a speedboat crash during a competition on the Watson Pond, New Hampshire. A third man, who was also involved in the accident, sustained minor injuries, according to the Taunton Gazette.

There has been no announcement about funeral plans for James Melley and Garth Tagge. Several people in the speedboat racing community have expressed condolences to the family of the two deceased racers.

[Featured Image by by Tertius Pickard/Getty Images for XCAT]