Family of Girl Killed by Speedboat Files Suit

Times Staff Writer

The family of Brandy Branchflower, 9, who was killed when a speedboat went out of control during a race at Irvine Lake on April 21, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court Wednesday seeking $30 million in damages from sponsors and organizers of the event.

Larry and Georgia Branchflower, the girl’s parents, and Danny Branchflower, her brother, all of Burbank, assert in the suit that the defendants, who “were engaged in the business of promoting and staging high-speed boat races,” negligently failed “to enforce, inspect and take safety precautions” at the Coors Championship race at the lake.

The defendants, who include the National Drag Boat Assn., Coors Corp., Coors Distributing Co., Irvine Boat and Tackle Co., Norco Mounted Police, Hi Tech Marine, Casale Engineering and several individuals, could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Ten days after the accident, the Irvine Co., which owns the land adjacent to the lake, canceled its contract with the Irvine Boat and Tackle Co., which organized the race. The Irvine Co. has since banned drag boat races at the lake.


The Irvine Co. was not named in the suit.

Brandy Branchflower was killed instantly when a hydroplane-style drag boat veered onto the shore and into a crowd of spectators. Another spectator was injured in the incident. The 1,200-horsepower boat, driven by James Lange of Simi Valley, was traveling at about 45 m.p.h. when it left the water and cut diagonally across the shore.

Three spectators were injured in similar accidents at Irvine Lake on April 9, 1983, during qualifying drag boat races for the Coors Western Championship. A boat driven by Randy Au crashed in a crowded bank, and later that day another boat flipped at the finish line, seriously injuring its driver.

Following Brandy’s death, race organizers were criticized by members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors for changing the course of the race.