Hydro for Heroes created a festival atmosphere over weekend in Oak Harbor, but spirits were dampened by the serious injury of one of the drivers.
Derek Bollinger of Lake Stevens barrel-rolled going into a turn about 5 p.m. Saturday and was struck by another boat, according to race director Lenny Baker. Bollinger was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, and Monday afternon he was listed in serious condition and in the ICU.
For the fourth consecutive summer and for the second year under the banner of Hydros for Heroes, the boats thundered across Oak Harbor Bay.
Race owner Craig McKenzie and the Craig McKenzie Team Foundation of Keller Williams Whidbey Realty hosted the event.
Outside of the accident, everything “went great,” according to McKenzie.
“The public came out in very large numbers to support the event and seemed to be loving it,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and thanked me for doing this.”
Accident dampens race
Bollinger’s family has been racing hydroplanes since 1959. This season Bollinger was piloting all three of the family’s boats.
He has also been one of the biggest supporters of the Oak Harbor event.
“He brings his boats up for all the Oak Harbor parades to advertise the event,” Jim Woessner, race manager, said.
Racing in the Formula 150 class Saturday, Bollinger rolled going into the turn and was hit by a trailing boat, according to Baker of the Seattle Drag and Ski Racing Association.
The Region 10 rescue team under the guidance of John Arwine was “exemplary,” Baker said. “In my opinion, they are the best in the country, and I have been racing for 22 years.”
Bollinger was breathing but not talking when the rescue team reached the crash site, according Baker.
Bollinger was airlifted to Harborview from the Seaplane Base by a crew from NAS Whidbey.
“(It is) always a scary sight when boats crash, and this was a tough one,” McKenzie said. “We are all saying some pretty large prayers that Derek makes a complete recovery.”
Racers enjoy Oak Harbor
The racers “love coming to Oak Harbor,” McKenzie said, adding they “feel like this is one of he best races and venues.”
McKenzie also received positive feedback from the public: “We were complimented repeatedly and thanked by the fans for putting on such a great event.”
One of the boat haulers broke down on the way to Whidbey Island, delaying the start of the race Saturday. That and the accident kept the organizers from being able to complete all of the heats over the weekend.
Proceeds from Hydros for Heroes go to the Rotary Club of Oak Harbor’s charitable works, including its Food for Kids Backpack Program.
As of Monday, bills and monies were still being reconciled, according to McKenzie, so the amount raised is not known.
“God willing,” there will another race in 2018, McKenzie said.
“This event has so many moving parts and things to consider, it is a bit overwhelming but yet very rewarding,” he said.