The performance boat community was saddened once again yesterday afternoon when a fatal boat accident cast a negative cloud over what was an overwhelmingly positive Desert Storm Poker Run in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. The beloved Brad Kloepfer, a local boater who runs the instantly recognizable DCB Performance Boats M35 Widebody Lickity Split with his friend who owns the boat, J.P. O’Donoghue, died in an accident when the 35-foot catamaran crashed on Lake Havasu, killing Kloepfer’s friend, Paul Selberg also of Lake Havasu City, and critically injuring his wife, Connie Davis Kloepfer.
Editor’s note: Connie Davis Kloepfer passed away Friday morning (April 27) after complications following the accident.
Mercury Racing 1350 engines was 158 mph.The 57-year-old Kloepfer was running the boat south on the lake approximately 30 minutes after he finished his final run on the new 3/4-mile-long Desert Storm Poker Run Shootout when the incident occurred. His fastest speed of the day in the 35-foot catamaran powered by twin
According to a release issued by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Department on Saturday evening, at approximately 12:30 p.m., the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Communications Center received several calls of a boat that had crashed in the South Basin of Lake Havasu near the Contact Point Water Safety Center.
Upon arrival, deputies determined that the boat was traveling at high speeds, crashed and then sank. Several Good Samaritan boats were on scene, and had pulled the three people, who were wearing life jackets, out of the water and started administering CPR. Mohave County Sheriff’s Office Division of Boating Safety personnel boarded the boats and took over resuscitation efforts.
Deputies then loaded the three occupants into different MCSO patrol boats, and transported each of them to the Contact Point Water Safety Center within minutes. At Contact Point they were met by Lake Havasu City Fire Department personnel who attempted lifesaving efforts and then transported them to the Havasu Regional Medical Center where the two males were pronounced deceased and the female was listed in extremely critical condition.
The report continued, stating that initial investigations showed that the occupants were wearing life jackets and the operator was wearing his safety kill switch. It also said that the case is still under investigation and that the department’s thoughts are with the family and those affected by the incident.
Speedonthewater.com was proud to be part of the Lickity Split delivery day in June 2015. From left to right is Brad Kloepfer, J.P. O’Donoghue, Connie Kloepfer, Jeff Johnston and Tony Chiaramonte. Photo by Jason Johnson
For me, this accident hits a little closer to home than others I’ve reported on as I’ve come to know J.P., Brad and Connie better than most powerboat owners I’ve covered throughout the years. In fact, this year I stayed at J.P.’s house during the poker run and was fortunate to spend more time than I normally might with Brad and Connie and friends during the event.
I will forever be grateful that I took J.P. up on the offer to go watch the top-speed shootout from Lickity Split’s Toon, a PlayCraft pontoon that was painted to match the 35-foot cat, which was painted by Mark Morris and the team at Visual Imagination in Missouri. Not only did I get to spend several hours with Connie watching Brad make his three passes, I was able to hang out with Brad on the pontoon for about half an hour before he took his final boat ride.
For the past few years I got to know Brad well by following the build of Lickity Split (see the related stories below), traveling to Lake Havasu when DCB’s Tony Chiaramonte delivered the M35 to him and J.P., reporting on Lickity Split’s adventures around the country and, of course, running into the team at events like Desert Storm and the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Missouri. I won’t claim to know Brad as well as his friends and family members from California and Lake Havasu as well as the DCB brethren, but I do know he was one of the nicest, most generous people I’ve ever come across in this industry. He and Connie both are just goodhearted, down-to-earth people.
Check out the slideshow above for more images of Brad Kloepfer and Lickity Split in action over the last few years.
Chiaramonte, who spent a lot of time on the road with Brad as he became as much a part of the team as DCB’s actual employees, said he’s never met any one more enthusiastic and proud of a boat and of DCB.
“I talked to Brad every day man, I really don’t know what to think,” Chiaramonte said. “The guy just loved the sport. If you had a DCB, heck any boat for that matter, he never said no if you needed something. The only time was if he was out of town and then he felt bad he couldn’t help out. He was a true blue friend and was always there for everyone. This is a tough loss. We had a full schedule planned for this summer. He was going to go to the Texas Outlaw Challenge with me and to the Lake Powell Spring Fun Run and to Lake of the Ozarks and more. I’m going to miss him so much and will always remember the good times we had together.”
Speedboat magazine publisher Ray Lee was grateful to get to spend a lot of time with Brad, Connie and J.P. at different events.
“Brad was the most friendly, most passionate boating enthusiast ever,” Lee said. “He was there helping DCB every chance he got because he was such a loyalist to the brand and he was so enthusiastic about the boat. He couldn’t be more proud to represent Lickity Split. In fact, a lot of people mistook him as the owner of Lickity Split because he was such a great representative of the brand.
“Last year, he called and invited me to the Big Cat Poker Run in Discovery Bay, Calif.,” Lee continued. “And, you know how this is, because of our involvement in the industry we get invited to ride along with a lot of people, but we’re pretty selective. I never had a second thought of riding with Brad. He was one of the most cautious, competent drivers, especially when Connie was on board. I don’t think there was any hot-dogging involved, I think it was just a fluke accident.”
Speedboat’s Ray Lee took this image of a happy, relaxed Brad Kloepfer at last year’s Rock The Docks event in Lake Havasu City.
Clearly choked up, Lee changed the subject and gave credit to the DCB team for showing up at Saturday night’s poker run awards banquet.
“There was a huge void in the awards banquet early on because DCB is such a large part of the Desert Storm event and their reserved tables were empty,” Lee explained. “But about halfway through the event, the DCB family showed up to represent Brad and give a touching tribute to him. They knew Brad would have wanted them there, which is why they decided to show up united at the banquet. It was pretty touching.”
The man who painted Lickity Split, Lickity Split’s Toon and the amazing SportChassis tow vehicle, Mark Morris, said he’s become great friends with Brad as well. In fact, Morris and his wife, Laura, stayed with Brad and Connie for this year’s poker run and Brad and Connie have stayed at their home several times over the past few years.
“I’m going to miss Brad so much, he’s become a really good friend,” Morris said. “He’s a guy that everyone can really count on—he’s one of a kind. I’m numb, I don’t even know what to say. When we started Lickity Split and I met him, it was an instant friendship with him and J.P.
“The other night Dave (Hemmingson, the former owner of DCB), J.P., Brad, Connie, my wife and I were all at dinner and Dave was talking about what a great project Lickity Split was, how much fun we had and how much publicity the boat received,” he continued. “Brad was a big reason for all of that. We always called him J.P.’s partner even though Brad wasn’t paying for the boat. Lickity Split was Brad and J.P., period and J.P. would tell you that. He did everything—he did the promotions, the hauling, the upkeep and the scheduling.”
Morris said he and Laura were thankful they made the trip to Lake Havasu to spend time with Brad and Connie since Morris was considering cancelling the trip because he’s so busy at the shop.
“I’m so glad we went—I’d feel worse than I do now if we didn’t go,” Morris said. “Brad’s going to be deeply missed by us and the whole DCB and Havasu communities. I don’t know if there’s a bigger supporter of DCB than him, and he was just as big a champion for Visual Imagination. He would do anything for you, yet he never asked for anything. We’re all praying for a speedy recovery from Connie.”
Taken at the 2015 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout on the Strip street party, the DCB family welcomed in J.P. O’Donoghue and Brad Kloepfer (left) with open arms. Photo by Dennis Martz/Aerial Peek
Travis Richardson, who traveled across the country with O’Donoghue and the Kloepfers for Lickity Split’s first event, the 2015 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Missouri, was devastated when he heard the news today. He and his wife, Summer—the team behind Swoop Motorsports—spent a lot of time with Brad and Connie and vividly remember that trip to Missouri in which five DCBs caravanned from Arizona to Missouri because the Lickity Split team made such a presence.
“Our hearts are broken,” he said. “We still can’t believe it.”
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