ELIZABETH KING'S ACCIDENT (Illustration) Medicine Fiction Geography Sports Legends and Legendary People Film

In this image we see a group of boats in an off-shore powerboat race. The photo, by Tom Newby, was published in the St. Petersburg Times on October 16, 2003. On the same day, the paper published an interactive graphic which allows viewers to virtually examine what it might be like to race in such a powerful vessel.


Lush landscapes, coupled with incomparable views of the ocean, are part of the Hawaiian experience.  So are water sports.

For surfers, Hawaii’s waves are among the best in the world.  Sailing, snorkeling, scuba-diving, kayaking, paddle-boarding and whale-watching are all part of the fun.
Offshore-powerboat racing doesn’t quickly come to mind, when thinking about key Hawaiian water sports, but a racing accident is a key part of this story.  Let’s examine a bit of its history.

Still a sport dominated by males, offshore-powerboat racing involves expensive equipment.  It’s been a sport since the early 1900s, after it began in Britain. 

By 1935, a newly designed boat could travel at a high rate of speed (for the time):

...the thrill of thrills for the fellow who loves speed promises to be mile-a-minute outboard motorboat racing.  Traveling at sixty miles an hour in a tiny craft only a few feet over-all, you have a sense of lightening flight through the rushing of mighty elements in uproar - a thrill unobtainable in any other sport.  (Popular Mechanics, May 1935, pages 680-81.)

Today’s powerboat racers routinely travel at speeds exceeding 100 miles an hour.  New designs, incorporating jet engines, can more-than-double that rate. 

The sport is different now in other ways as well.  Most racing boats require two experienced people to run them.  The driver steers the boat; the throttle man manages the speed and trim. 

Managing a speeding boat together, both people have to maintain clear and constant communication.  If a driver turns the boat, without coordinating with his throttle man - for example - he runs the risk of losing a passenger or flipping the vessel.  A flipped boat, hitting the water at a very high rate of speed, will often produce a fatal result.

Elizabeth King - played by Patricia Hastie in the film version of The Descendants - loved powerboat racing.  Usually the driver, she agreed to change places with her throttle man so he could experience the thrill of steering a racing vessel. 

In his first outing as a driver, Elizabeth’s boating partner launched their forty-foot Skater catamaran off a wave near Waikiki.  When the boat began to spin, she was ejected (since powerboat racers rarely wear seat belts). 

Hitting the water at 80 mph, Elizabeth sustained profound injuries.  Comatose, in a hospital, she could no longer make decisions for herself. 

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Nov 01, 2011

Updated Last Revision: Apr 22, 2015

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"ELIZABETH KING'S ACCIDENT" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 01, 2011. Jan 19, 2020.
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