KEY WEST -- Powerboat racers, their families and pit crews crowded a memorial service Saturday for a south Manatee man, the third powerboat racer killed this week in the Key West Super Boat World Championships.
Page Motorsports throttleman Joey Gratton, 59, of University Park, died early Saturday at Ryder Trauma Center in Miami after his 38-foot catamaran with twin 850-horsepower engines rolled over twice near a turn in the last lap of Friday’s race.
Mr. Gratton was pulled unconscious from the overturned boat by dive paramedics. The boat’s owner and driver, Stephen Page of Fort Myers, was able to swim out under his own power. Page, 57, was treated at Lower Keys Medical Center and released Saturday morning.
Mr. Gratton was also a co-owner of Buccaneer Pawn Shop, 3119 First Street, Bradenton. He is survived by his wife, Priscilla, and twin sons, Blake and Brock, 29.
The Page Motorsports Facebook page was flooded with messages following Mr. Gratton’s death.
“There are no words to describe the loss our family is feeling tonight. Please continue to pray,” read a Page Motorsports status update.
“We thank you for your prayers, love, and support. There was no greater man than Joey Gratton and there is nothing that will ever replace the huge hole in all of our hearts.”
Page wept openly at the service at the Truman Waterfront race pits in Key West, and was comforted by fellow racers.
The Rev. Jim Black of Racing Performance Ministries remembered Mr. Gratton for his infectious smile and gift of gab.
“We’re gonna miss this guy. We’re gonna miss seeing him,” Black said. “We’re going to keep him in our hearts and minds.”
Mr. Gratton is the third fatality in the deadliest week ever in the history of Key West powerboat racing.
Big Thunder Marine owner/throttleman Bob Morgan and driver Jeffrey Tillman, both of Missouri, died in Wednesday’s opener after their catamaran leapt out of the water and landed upside down in front of Mallory Square.
They were honored in a memorial service Thursday.
Race director John Carbonell of Super Boat International Productions, said today’s final race will go on as scheduled.