Madison Courier sports writer David Campbell was walking through the pit area at the Madison Regatta Saturday morning and snapped this photo of a driver preparing to go out on the water. He later realized he had taken a picture of Rick Beatty, driver of the vintage H-202 Heavy Duty. Beatty was killed during the run when he was thrown from his boat. The man with his back to the camera was not identified.
Madison Courier sports writer David Campbell was walking through the pit area at the Madison Regatta Saturday morning and snapped this photo of a driver preparing to go out on the water. He later realized he had taken a picture of Rick Beatty, driver of the vintage H-202 Heavy Duty. Beatty was killed during the run when he was thrown from his boat. The man with his back to the camera was not identified.
Rick Beatty, owner and driver of the vintage H-202 Heavy Duty, was running test laps on the Ohio River Saturday when he was ejected from the open cockpit of the boat in the lower corner of the race course and sustained fatal head injuries.

Beatty, 60, of Dayton Ohio, was an avid boat racing fan and owner and driver of vintage hydroplanes. He had purchased the Heavy Duty in 2017, a 7-Litre modified hydroplane built by legendary boat designer/builder Henry Lauterbach in 1964 and powered by a 454-cubic-inch Chevy motor, but he also owned several other hydroplanes, race boats and speed boats. His family kept one of his pleasure boats docked in Aurora, Indiana.

Fellow vintage owner and driver Bill McTague, of Batavia, Ohio, knew Beatty through their vintage racing and was getting to know him better since McTague owned and drove the Justa Pest N56 and Beatty owned the Justa-Pest II. The two ate breakfast together Saturday morning and were running in the same heat at the time of the crash.

McTague described the crash as a “freak accident” and said nothing appeared wrong with Beatty’s boat until he saw it stopped in the water at the crash site.

“I did not see it happen but it is such a freak accident. It was a single-boat fatality. I came around the turn and the boat was sitting there and he wasn’t in it,” McTague said.

Boats like Beatty’s and McTague’s Justa Pest have open cockpits and accidents often result in ejection of the driver. This is apparently what happened to Beatty on Saturday when his craft hit a wave or something else and ejected him from the seat.

Witnesses in the vintage pits said the rudder on Beatty’s boat was apparently damaged in the incident, leading some to speculate that the boat might have struck a piece of debris in the Ohio River, causing it to lose momentum quickly, veer to the left and eject the driver.

Jefferson County Coroner Rodney Nay said Beatty was pulled from the water by safety and rescue personnel, who could not find a pulse. EMTs administered cardio pulmonary resuscitation en route to King’s Daughters’ Hospital in Madison where he was pronounced dead at 12:06 p.m. Results of an autopsy said Beatty died of head injuries.

“The water conditions were not bad. It was just truly a freak accident,” McTague said. “And I just can’t get my head around it. I just don’t understand it.

“He loved boats. At last count I know he owned 11 boats — hydroplanes and vintage racing crafts. He loved the sport,” McTague said of Beatty. “We had breakfast this morning with him, me and my wife at the hotel, and he was a little bit disturbed that we didn’t get in the water yesterday because of the conditions and everything. He said, ‘If they don’t put us in the water today, I’m going home. I’ve got a life.’ And that was the last thing I think I will ever remember him saying.”

News of Beatty’s death saddened boat racers throughout the pits for the 2019 APBA Gold Cup and Indiana Governor’s Cup race weekend.

Madison Regatta President Matt True issued a statement on behalf of the volunteer organization that stages the annual boat races.

“It is with great sadness that Madison Regatta Inc. announces the passing of vintage boat owner and driver Rick Beatty of Dayton, Ohio. Beatty, 60, succumbed to injuries he sustained in an exhibition appearance Saturday July 6, on the Ohio River.

“Beatty, a consummate boat racing fan, took his love for hydroplanes even further by owning and driving numerous vintage racers like the H-202 Heavy Duty he acquired in 2017 and was piloting at the time of the accident. Rick was doing what he loved in a boat he loved.

“The Madison Regatta Inc., our many volunteers and fans offer our deepest sympathies to the family of Rick Beatty, the entire H-202 Heavy Duty race team and the vintage racing community.

“Vintage racers are keepers of our sport’s heritage and in many ways the heart and soul of hydroplane racing and Rick will be missed.”

As executive director of the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Seattle, David Williams has driven 18 different unlimited hydroplanes from seven different decades and published several books on unlimited racing to become somewhat of an expert on vintage racing. He issued a statement Saturday on behalf of the museum.

“We tend to think that just because we are running exhibitions, and it isn’t ‘real racing’ that it isn’t really dangerous,” Williams wrote. “Physics can’t tell the difference between 100 mph in a race or 100 mph in an exhibition. This breaks my heart.”

The Heavy Duty pulled out of the Madison pits later Saturday afternoon to begin the team’s somber drive back to Dayton. The remainder of the vintage exhibition was also canceled.

By Sunday all vintage teams had left the Madison pits. There was a moment of silence in Beatty’s memory during opening ceremonies before Sunday’s APBA Gold Cup and Indiana Governor’s Cup H1 Unlimited hydroplane finals and the Grand Prix World Supercharged North American Championship.

Beatty’s death was the second racing fatality in the 69-year history of the Madison Regatta, both coming in either vintage or underclasses. Jim Clark, of Gibraltar, Michigan, died in a racing accident at Madison in 1962 when his 266-cubic-inch class hydroplane nosed into the Ohio River.