Two boats were side by side going around 110 mph when they glanced off each other and one craft flipped multiple times, ejecting the driver, according to Ross Wallach, president of the Southern California Speedboat Club, which organizes the high-profile annual race.
Emergency crews rushed the driver to a local trauma center with life-threatening injuries, Long Beach Fire Department spokesman Brian Fisk said.
The race has been a fixture in Long Beach for more than 70 years, drawing thousands of spectators. This year marked its return after a hiatus forced by the pandemic in 2020.
In 2018, another high-speed crash at the Sprint Nationals killed Greg Duff, a 36-year-old racer from Newport Beach.
And in 2019, Long Beach originally denied a permit to host the race that year because of safety concerns.