KEY WEST (CBS4) – High drama on the high seas. The first day of the Key West World Championship, which features 60 high-speed power boats in three days of racing, was punctuated with two accidents, one of them deadly.

Big Thunder Marine, a 46-foot Skater catamaran (#100) with four 1,200 hp engines, crashed during the third lap of Wednesday’s race inside Key West Harbor. Robert M. Morgan of Sunrise Beach, Mo., and Jeffrey Tillman of Kaiser, Mo., were the throttleman and driver respectively piloting the boat.

Rescue divers were deployed within a minute of the accident and the crew members were transferred to Lower Keys Medical Center. Both died later, according to Rodrick Cox, public relations director for Superboat International, the world championship’s public relations director.

The season-ending finale of the 2011 offshore racing season has attracted the most foreign entries in years, according to officials with Superboat International, the event’s sanctioning body.

Officials have not yet released any details of the accident.

In another accident, Scott Roman of Marlton, N.J., and Ron Roman of Lumberton, N.J., overturned in their Motley Crew boat. Both racers appeared to escape significant injuries and were seen being transferred without assistance to a Coast Guard boat.

The season-ending finale has attracted the most international entries in a number of years, according to officials with Superboat International, the event’s sanctioning body.

Teams from Australia, Italy, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom and Ukraine are competing compete, along with U.S. entries.

Following today’s races, action is to return Friday, Nov. 11, and Sunday, Nov. 13. Three races are scheduled per day, each featuring boats from multiple classes. Today and Friday heats account for 25 percent of accumulated points each day, while the final day Sunday is worth 50 percent.

Among spectators’ favorites is the Superboat Unlimited class, which draws powerful boats that can achieve calm water speeds in excess of 125 mph.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.)


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