Joe Sgro, the president of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats in Bristol, Rhode Island, died from injuries following a single-boat crash of a new 50-foot Outerlimits boat on November 9 during the Florida Powerboat Club Key West Poker Run, said Carol Lyn Parrish, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission public information coordinator. There were four other men, all from New York, on the boat with Sgro just before noon about a quarter-mile offshore near the 33rd Street boat ramp, Mile Marker 48.5, near Faro Blanco Resort and Yacht Club in Marathon, Florida.
Parrish said Joseph Cibellis, 52, was at the helm while Sgro was operating the throttles. Joseph Nestola, 56, Joseph Latona, 60, and Steven Kropp, 60, were passengers. Nestola and Latona were taken to Fishermen’s Community Hospital in Marathon for treatment while Cibellis and Krupp were not hurt.
Sgro, 63, is survived by his wife, Eileen, and six children ranging in age from 15 to 38.
“We’re all longtime friends, all five of us,” Nestola told Newsday from his hospital bed at a Miami trauma center. Sgro, he said, “was a great guy and a great family man. … He was a good friend to everybody and a hardworking entrepreneur.”
Mercury Racing worked closely with Sgro over the years in support of his offshore powerboat competition and poker-run efforts. Sgro recently supported a Mercury Marine media event in New York City by supplying members of the media with quick spins down the Hudson River in his record-setting SV43 Outerlimits hull.
On April 29, 2014, Sgro and Brian Forehand made back-to-back passes of 179.5 mph and 181.42 mph for an American Power Boat Association Unlimited V-bottom kilo speed record of 180.47 mph. The record still stands.
“An event like this reinforces how fragile life really is,” said Mercury Racing General Manager Erik Christiansen. “Joe was not only a friend and partner of Mercury Racing, he was also a successful and devoted family man who loved to help others. He had a passion for life and will be missed.”
In a 2009 profile in Newsday, Sgro called himself “an adrenaline junkie.”
Sgro, who grew up in the Bensonhurst neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, told Newsday he got his sea legs during summers spent in Hampton Bays, where his parents had a house when he was a kid.
“I’d come home from the last day of school, and my dad would be packing up the car,” Sgro said. He would spend all summer out on the water, fishing, crabbing and, eventually, boating.
He says his powerboat racing was a natural progression, a way to stay out of trouble, really.
“Around 1985, my friend Joe Latona moved to Long Island. He bought an old race boat. It was loud, fast, annoying,” Sgro said. “We had a lot of problems with the bay constable, with the marine police, the Coast Guard.
“After getting a handful of tickets,” he said, they began racing in the Northeast, taking their 28-foot Manta Fever boat to second place in their first race in 1986.
By midsummer of 2009, Sgro was racing in the Powerboat P1 World Championship, piloting a 43-foot, 8,000-pound V-bottom boat against international teams at Grand Prix of the Sea events across Europe and the Middle East. Sgro bought the assets of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats in 2015 after his longtime friend and founder of the company, Mike Fiore, died in a high-speed powerboat crash during the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout the year prior.