Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was the driver of the boat that crashed into a jetty off South Beach, killing himself, Emilio Jesus Macias, and Eduardo Rivero, a report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation concluded last week.
Fernandez, 24, was the owner of the boat. The crash occurred on September 25 at a jetty north of Government Cut off the coast of South Beach. Rivero, 25, and Macias, 27, had met Fernandez through his girlfriend. Rivero was a sales associate at Carnival Cruise Lines and Macias was a financial adviser at Wells Fargo.
According to news sources, the trio had been drinking in downtown Miami before they took an impromptu boat ride at 2:42 a.m. They drove the boat through Government Cut and into the Atlantic Ocean. Less than a mile offshore, the boat turned back and headed toward Government Cut. They crashed into the north jetty at 3:02 a.m. All three men died.
Court documents say the bodies had a “strong odor of alcohol,” and a toxicology report from the medical examiner’s officer revealed that Fernandez had alcohol and cocaine in his system at the time of the fatal crash. Marcia and Rivero also had alcohol in their systems, but no cocaine.
Fernandez reportedly had a blood alcohol level of .167, which is double the legal limit in Florida. Marcias’ was .04 and Rivero’s was .06, meaning neither of them was legally drunk, the toxicology report concluded.
The initial official report did not say who was driving, but the final report that was released Thursday concluded that Fernandez was the driver. The damage to his body matched the damage on the boat’s center console, and his DNA was found on the steering wheel and throttle.
Investigators believe the boat was traveling at 65 miles per hour, which is the vessel’s top speed. The high rate of speed coupled with Fernandez’s impaired faculties, the darkness of the night, and the navigational hazards of the area are all factors that led to the fatal boat crash.
The report counters Fernandez’s family attorney’s claim that the athlete was not the driver at the time of the crash. The lawyer claimed that Fernandez had a phone conversation with a witness who heard the pitcher shout at someone to keep left moments before the crash, sources say. But phone records reportedly show that the witness, Yuri Perez, spoke to Fernandez approximately 12 minutes before the crash.
The findings of the report will likely play heavily into the negligence and personal injury lawsuits filed by the families of Rivero and Macias against Fernandez’s estate. The relatives of the two men are seeking $2 million each in restitution.
Autopsies showed that the cause of death for the trio was blunt force trauma. Their physical injuries were paramount in determining who was steering the boat at the time of the crash. According to the final report, had Fernandez survived the crash, he would have likely been charged with several crimes, including manslaughter.
Fernandez was a Cuban-born pitcher who regarded as one of the cornerstone talents of the Marlins franchise. He arrived in the U.S. in 2008 and was drafted by the Marlins in 2011. He played his first major league season in 2013 and was named National League Rookie of the Year. His estate is estimated to be valued at $2 to $3 million.