Have Fun But be Safe and Smart
Published on March 16th, 2017
Boating and booze have a long history, but when further mixed with inexperience or irresponsibility, bad things happen. As the marine environment makes alcohol even more hazardous on the water than on land, the use of alcohol is involved in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities.
Impairment was found to be the cause of a recent high profile accident as reported by the Sun Sentinel.
Major League Baseball pitching ace Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins was at the controls of his speeding boat when it crashed into a rock jetty off the coast of Miami Beach last September, killing the 24-year-old All-Star and his two passengers, investigators have concluded.
The vessel was traveling at more than 65 mph and Fernandez was over the legal limit for alcohol and had evidence of cocaine in his system when at the time of the Sept. 25 crash, according to a report released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“Fernandez operated the [vessel] with his normal faculties impaired, in a reckless manner, in the darkness of night, in an area with known navigational hazards such as the rock jetties and channel markers,” the 46-page report concluded.
“Fernandez’s impairment and manner of operation caused the accident which resulted in his death and the death of his occupants, Eduardo Rivero and Emilio Macias.”
Had he lived, Fernandez could have faced charges of manslaughter, boating while intoxicated, vessel homicide and reckless or careless operation, Conservation Commission investigators concluded.
Fernandez, along with Macias, 27, and Rivero, 25, died when the boat they were in slammed into the north jetty at Government Cut off Miami Beach.
The 32-foot center console SeaVee, called Kaught Looking, ended up overturned, on top of the jetty following the collision that happened just after 3 a.m.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue divers found Fernandez’s body submerged under the vessel, “pinned between the t-top and a boulder,” the report said.
Macias was found near the bow of the boat, “submerged in a tidal pool adjacent the jetty’s surface. Eduardo Rivero was found underwater on the north side of the jetty, west of [the vessel’s] stern, his head and chest under a boulder.”
All were pronounced dead at the scene at about 4 a.m.
Investigators used Fernandez’s DNA found on the boat’s steering wheel and throttle, as well as finger prints from the steering wheel, to determine that he was the driver, the report said.
Prior to the crash the trio had been at a bar, American Social Bar & Kitchen, along the south bank of the Miami River, near Brickell Avenue in downtown Miami.
“A toxicology report determined alcohol and drugs were a factor in this case,” the FWC report said.
The conclusion that Fernandez was driving the boat is contrary to an opinion expressed by attorney Ralph Fernandez, a family friend who delivered the eulogy at the pitcher’s funeral.
Ralph Fernandez, who is not related to Jose, said the pitcher was on the phone at the time of the crash, with his head tucked in a place to avoid the wind.
“No matter what the report has concluded, nothing will ever diminish Jose’s everlasting positive connection with Miami and the Miami Marlins,” said Marlins team president David Samson in a statement. “Nor can it lessen the love and passion he felt for his family, friends, teammates and all his fans in South Florida and around the world.”
A copy of the FWC report was provided to lawyers representing the families prior to its release.
“We want to emphasize that this accident was a tragedy for all concerned,” said a statement from Christopher Royer, an attorney with the law firm of Krupnick Campbell, which represents the survivors of Macias and Rivero. “Though fault has been determined officially, the families of Emilio and Eduardo are not vindictive and simply hope that an amicable settlement of the lawsuit can be reached between the parties as swiftly as possible so as not to prolong the final closure for the many people who have been impacted.
“The Rivero and Macias families have also lost their sons in the prime of their lives. Whatever happens, there are no winners in this matter, simply losses – those of the lives of three fine young men.”
In February the parents of Macias and Rivero announced they would file negligence and personal injury lawsuits in Miami against Fernandez’s estate, each seeking $2 million.
The lawsuits set the stage for a long-term battle over Fernandez’s estate, which had more potential value than actual assets at the time of his death.
The death of the Cuban-born Fernandez rocked the baseball world and South Florida’s Cuban community, where he was especially beloved. He survived a raft voyage to get to the United States, and his charisma and enthusiasm for baseball and life made him a fitting representative of a talented hard-worker living the American Dream.
.Just days before his tragic death, Fernandez publicly announced that he and his girlfriend, Maria Arias, were expecting a child. The baby, Penelope, was born Feb. 24. Her birth paves the way to begin the process to have her legally recognized as the late All-Star’s heir, said family attorney Ralph Fernandez.
His mother and girlfriend were formally appointed representatives of his estate in March.