Racing boat driver remembered after tragic death Sunday at Port Neches RiverFest
Published 1:59 pm Monday, May 8, 2023
PORT NECHES — On Sunday afternoon boat racer Bobby Briggs and two of his crewmembers went to Piggin’ Out Pork and placed their orders of pork-a-bobs for the after-race party.
This had become a tradition with Briggs during Port Neches RiverFest.
Briggs was a big fan of the food on a stick, and through the years he became friends with Kent and Jennifer Guidry, owners of the popular food truck.
“He came in that morning and spent about 45 minutes or so talking,” Kent Guidry said, explaining how the racer and vendors hung out during the race weekend.
Later, when Briggs made his order of food he said he wanted to get 20 to 25 dozen of the frozen kabobs to bring home to Toledo, Ohio, along with some fried alligator from another Port Neches RiverFest vendor.
“I said, ‘no problem, we’ll take care of you buddy,’” Kent Guidry recalled.
Not long after Kent Guidry emerged from the restroom and heard Briggs’ name and was told of the boat crash.
“We waited and waited to see what was going on. They called it, and said they’re not going to finish the race,” Kent Guidry said of the professional boat races that were taking place in the nearby Neches River.
Texas Parks & Wildlife Game Warden Ryan Hall said two of the race boats collided at approximately 5 p.m. Sunday during the racing event and one person died.
HydroRacer Live noted online that Bobby Briggs was taken to a hospital after a late lap incident during the finals for the F1 category.
Justice of the Peace Tom Gillam III said a person was brought to The Medical Center of Southeast Texas, where he died.
Game Warden Hall said the boats in the race are small and carry one person.
Hall said the crash occurred during a sanctioned boat race, and it wouldn’t fall under the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s jurisdiction, as it was a U.S. Coast Guard-sanctioned race.
U.S. Petty Officer 3rd Class Alejandro Rivera said Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is the lead agency on the case and the security zone was held by TP&W.
Rivera said the boat crash happened on the opposite side of the safety zone from where the Coast Guard was.
Game Warden Hall provided some clarity to the jurisdiction issue; since this occurred during a sanctioned event, no one was breaking the law, so the incident is not reportable to the State.
An incident report would be made by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office but not an investigation.
News of the death of Briggs elicited condolences and prayers from many.
Debbie Plaia, executive director of RiverFest, took to social media with her sympathies.
“I’ve been doing RiverFest for 20 years now and I’ve met and become friends with many of the racers,” Plaia said. “I’ve never met Bobby, but (Sunday) he came by the RiverFest booth to get his T-shirt, cups on his way to order his regular bundle of pork a bobs from Piggin’ Out Pork. I thought, ‘what a huge personality!’ Later I find out this is the racer that was injured yesterday and passed away. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I got home last night and like most of our RF Committee, volunteers and RF Family, we feel the pain of our Festival Community. Our Deepest Condolences go out to Bobby’s Family, his racing team and friends.”
RiverFest organizers likewise shared their condolences, saying their thoughts and prayers go out to their families of all involved.
RiverFest organizers are not commenting on whether the race will change venues due to the fatality, saying the decision is up to the actual race organizers.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Marine Division and Criminal Investigations Division responded to the boat accident that occurred during the F1 Powerboat Championship Race at the Thunder on the Neches Event.
Authorities said two boats collided in a turn.
Briggs was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced deceased.
The driver of the other boat was treated and released at a local hospital.