OSS Puts Safety First in Biloxi
Speed Boat Drivers Tested In Dunk Tank Before Smokin The Sound
OCEAN SPRINGS (WLOX) -- The horsepower under the hood of the boats at Smokin the Sound creates enough speed to turn stomachs. It makes a 150 mile per hour ride across the Mississippi Sound both thrilling and harrowing.
The scary aspect of the races is why safety precautions are taken by the Offshore Super Series to make sure everybody survives this weekend's races.
Jenni Seeser has never been in the cockpit of an Offshore Super Series speedboat. So on Friday morning, she had a date with the Offshore Super Soaker.
"I was really nervous," the Missouri woman said after her experience in the simulator. "I didn't know if I would be able to do it or not."
Seeser wasn't the only person biting her nails.
"As a mom, I'm a nervous wreck," said Tricia Krause. Seeser is her daughter. "You know I'm a little nervous. But I'm sure everything will be fine. They've assured me they'll take care of them," she said.
Seeser and her fiancee normally race four-wheelers and dirt bikes. Swimming out of an upside down simulator is a relatively new experience for both of them. Mark Dunbar didn't give himself a very good grade.
"The first time it was pretty intimidating. And I did panic a little bit," he admitted.
The Offshore Super Series requires all drivers to take this training course twice a year. In fact, new drivers like the Under Destruction team can't race until they've been to the Ocean Springs YMCA. Tony Fitzgerald is one of the lead trainers.
"Anything they can do for themselves before we get there is a benefit to them," he said.
Fitzgerald and his team of firefighters and paramedics emphasize that they are the second line of defense if one of these boats flips over in the Mississippi Sound. Their training reminds drivers that the difference between life and death is what the race team does while upside down.
"Training people to do what we do saves their lives just as much as if we jumped in out of the helicopters and did it," he said.
Rescue personnel are in helicopters that fly over the race course. Fitzgerald says It takes less than 10 seconds for a paramedic to get from a helicopter to an overturned speed boat.
That information eased Jenni Seeser's nerves just a bit. So did her second time through the simulator.
"I feel pretty safe so that if I do go over, I'm not going to panic," she said after the second test.
That answer is exactly why a visit to the Offshore Super Soaker is a pre-race requirement.
Ever since a tragedy before the inaugural Smokin the Sound, the Offshore Super Series has changed its practice policy. Boats cannot test the Mississippi Sound race course until Saturday, when safety helicopters are in the air. The races are on Sunday.
By Brad Kessie