speed boat fatal

Greg Duff competes in the Sprint Nationals Boat Races in Marine Stadium in Long Beach on Saturday, August 4, 2018. The next day, he was critically injured when another boat collided with his.

Speed boats, some jet powered, have circled around Marine Stadium each summer for decades in the annual Sprint Nationals races.

Then this spring, the city denied a permit for the Southern California Speedboat Club (SCSC) to have an event in 2019. After driver Gregory Paul Duff died last year, two weeks after being hit by another speed boat, the city added three safety conditions and organizer Ross Wallach could not satisfy them.

Wallach said last month that he was considering suing the city. Instead, talks resumed and an offer of a later date this year was made.

"We told him he could apply again, just like anyone can," Tasha Day, Special Events Bureau manager, said. "We do require $10 million in liability insurance. When he has that, he can resubmit."

Wallach has said the large increase in liability insurance — he had been carrying a $1 million policy — will be a huge hurdle. But, he added, he's going to give it his best shot.

"Absolutely we plan on resubmitting. I hope within the next 5 days," Wallach emailed Monday. "The date we opted for is August 17 and 18 as the city felt that might give me the best ‘window' just in case there's a problem."

The original date for the boat races was Aug. 3 and 4. Day said that review of an application for a major event like the Sprint Nationals can take up to 21 business days.

In the back and forth over the original application, the city added conditions for a third fire rescue boat in attendance, add perimeter safety barriers to include debris or fence netting to prevent boats or debris from colliding with public or property, and increase security so people don't watch the races from non-designated viewing areas. The sticking point, Wallach said last month, was a requirement to have a safety fence across the open mouth of Marine Stadium.

Those requirements still stand, according to Deputy Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Matt Gruneisen. Wallach did not say how he would comply with those requirements.

"I have literally landed and hit the ground running on this," Wallach said after races in Idaho. "I've never had this happen and I know that the odds are not in our favor but I can't give up the event and the legacy and history of powerboat racing at Marine Stadium."

Information about the Southern California Speedboat Club is available at www.scscracing.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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