The ski racing fraternity was gathering around to offer its total support to the Eagle family after the tragic death on Sydney Harbour last Saturday of 51-year-old Peter Eagle.
Eagle died when his ski boat, powered by a 300hp Mercury race engine, flipped near Ball’s Head, catapulting Eagle and co-driver Geoff Burgess out of the 7.0 metre racer.
Eagle was apparently knocked unconscious and trapped beneath the hull; Burgess, another noted ski racer, was pulled from the water and fortunately responded to CPR applied by a member of NSW Maritime.
Burgess, who like far too many ski racers sustained ‘dead arm’ in a horrific ski fall some years ago, was rushed to hospital where his condition has now improved from ‘serious’ to ‘stable.’
The pair was believed to be en route to a driver’s briefing in preparation for the Sydney Superboat Grand Prix when the accident occurred.
Race organisers cancelled the scheduled event as a mark of respect, although racing will resume today.
According to close friend and fellow ski racer, Nick Feros, wife Kerrie and daughters Lauryn and Sarah Eagle all are “devastated.” “They’re not good, not good at all,” he said. “Understandably Kerrie and the girls just broke down, they are absolutely lost.”
Lauryn Eagle, a former junior world ski racing champion and recently signed as a presenter for a sports show by Foxtel, was also remembered as 2004 Miss Teen Australia and Miss Teen International.
I was fortunate to have known Peter well, and towed wife Kerrie in a Bridge to Bridge race some years ago.
They were among the nicest people one could meet, well-known and respected by all who knew them, hence the shock waves being felt throughout the ski racing world.
Peter Ross described Eagle as ‘salt of the earth’.
“You wouldn’t find anyone with a bad word to say about him', he added.
What somehow made the tragedy seem ironic was the fact that Eagle only took the drive when the boat’s owner, another top ski race competitor Pat Cole, dropped out with a knee injury.
And equally ironic, had her competition licence been in order the co-driver may well have been Lauryn Eagle!
Despite the Eagle family’s on-going love affair with ski racing, the sport has not been kind to them.
Peter’s brother Allan was confined to a wheelchair after a devastating ski fall some years ago, while Peter himself survived a near-death experience when a broke his pelvis in a bad fall and sustained serious internal bleeding.
Another former top ski racer, Rory Brown, spoke to the two men at Drummoyne just before they left and headed down towards Sydney Harbour.
Brown said ‘shock and disbelief’ had been felt throughout the close-knit ski racing community.
“Both were well-known, loved and respected,” he said, “Peter was a champion bloke.”
Bill Barry-Cotter, a seven-time Class I Australian offshore titleholder and member of the Offshore Racing Council, described Eagle’s loss as “very, very sad.”
He said competitors had taken a vote and it was unanimous that racing be cancelled and a memorial lap at low speed be taken in respect.
Police Superintendent Mark Hutchings is handling the investigation into the dreadful accident and said both excessive speed and mechanical failure would be ‘looked at.’
Personally, I feel so sad for Kerrie and the girls, although I’d never met Lauryn and Sarah.
One just cannot imagine the pain they are experiencing right now.
This tragedy, sadly along with too many others I have experienced personally, reminds me of something the late Arthur Field, former crew chief of Put Burke’s Plus One ski race team and one of the sport’s true gentlemen, told me once.
He said when people are involved with big horsepower the potential for an accident is never far away.
Sadly he’s been proven right yet again.
To Kerrie, the girls, the entire Eagle family and all the guys and girls involved with ski racing, the Powerboat-World team has you in our thoughts.