1931 President's Cup - Gold Cup Class

Hoover Cup Racer Killed on Potomac

WASHINGTON, Sept 19 [1931] (AP).--A veteran boatman lost his life in the Potomac River today in the sudden spill of his racer that brought an abrupt close to the annual contest for the President's gold cup.

William Freitag of Westville, NJ was killed when his boat, the Miss Philadelphia, struck a side wash in the second lap of a fifteen-mile heat, turned over and rose out of the water to rest on her stern. The body was recovered.

William H. Wagner, mechanic was thrown clear of the boat and came to the surface immediately. He said he never saw Freitag after the speedboat overturned.

Thousands of horror-stricken spectators, gathered for the final day of the regatta, watched rescue boats work fifty minutes to recover Freitag's body, while five other entries were led across the finish line by the El Lagarto, owned by George Reis of Lake George, NY.

By voluntary consent of all the drivers, the last heat of the cup race was canceled, giving El Lagarto, winner in the first two heats and in the National Sweepstakes at Red Bank, NJ, the trophy.

The accident occurred in the second lap of the race as Miss Philadelphia came into the straightaway for the judge's boat after a wide turn. Observers, nearest the scene said the speeding racer, timed at 47 miles an hour in the first lap, spun around twice, and turned a complete somersault before  settling down on its stern, with the bow protruding twelve feet out of the water.

Officials crowding to the side of the judge's boat could see Wagner floating on the surface, as Coast Guard, police and Red Cross life-saving boats sped to the scene. John Shibe, baseball magnate and owner of the boat, was taken to the point from his stand at the naval air station adjoinging Bolling Field.

Wagner's only comment was "Just the luck of the game."

Fellow-boatmen said Freitag was a driver of great experience, though he could not swim. His life preserver was picked up on the surface, torn into three parts.

He drove Miss Philadelphia in the gold cup races both at Montauk Point, NY and Red Bank.

The accident brought a sudden quiet over the crowds lining the banks near Bolling Field and the war college. Officials immediately postponed all races and silence the staccato explosions of darting outboard speedsters warming up for other events. The Miss Philadelphia was towed to the Navy Yard, where [it was observed that] her side was crushed as a heavy crane lifted her clear of the water.

Freitag's face and head were badly bruised and his shoulders dislocated. A post mortem showed he died of a fractured skull.

(Associated Press, September 19, 1931)