Powerboat driver from Nunica dies after crash during Michigan race

Posted at 9:24 AM, Jul 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-31 17:49:45-04

ST. CLAIR, Mich. — Authorities say a veteran powerboat racer died following a crash during the St. Clair River Classic: a Michigan boat racing event on a river that runs between the U.S. and Canada.

Business owner in Nunica and veteran offshore powerboat racer Keith Holmes was killed after his boat was hit while racing Sunday. The St. Clair County sheriff's department says another boat collided with his Sunday evening; Holmes was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His driver, Jamie Sartin, was reported to be in the hospital in critical condition.

"[Keith] had the spirit and the passion to follow what he loved," said Barry Glovick, longtime friend and former racing partner of Holmes.

"You’ve got to look at that on the upside. He truly did follow his passion, like I’ve seen nobody else do.”

Glovick tells FOX 17 he met Holmes at a race in Ohio more than 20 years ago and immediately hit it off and became race partners for too many races to count: Glovick was the throttleman and Holmes drove the boat together until about a year ago.

Sunday Glovick says he was in St. Clair watching Holmes race when the St. Clair River Classic ended tragically.

"The boat took a hard hit in the side from a competitor and it was nothing that Keith or his crew member did," said Glovick.

Racing his 40-foot offshore powerboat American Ethanol Cat Can Do, Holmes was the throttleman alongside his driver Jamie Sartin. During the north turn on the Canadian side of the river, audience race footage shows fellow race team Miss Geico come up behind and hit Cat Can Do near its front port side.

"Keith was very passionate about the sport," said Glovick. "Nobody was more passionate, he did the most with the least and he was a fierce competitor. He was your worst nightmare, and he’s going to be greatly missed."

Holmes owned CK Motorsports in Nunica. Glovick says Holmes first started racing snowmobiles in Canada before boats.

Sunday Cat Can Do Racing posted on their Facebook page,

"We ask for your prayers as we wrap our minds around the events of today. Remember all, as we look for peace and comfort. We feel the love of the boating community and your support is appreciated. The Cat Can Do Racing Team"

More than a thousand people reacted to this post and hundreds shared their condolences.

The sheriff's department says the race was cut short following the crash. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

FOX 17 contacted the Offshore Powerboat Association, OPA, which runs the St. Clair River Classic. As of Monday evening, OPA officials have not commented.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.