MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Marlins pitching ace Jose Fernandez was behind the wheel of his boat when it crashed last year into a jetty off Miami Beach, killing him and his two passengers.
That was the finding of Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission investigators who issued their final report on the crash Thursday morning.
They determined the 32-foot SeaVee center console boat was traveling at more than 65 mph when it slammed into the jetty while Fernandez was trying to enter the Government Cut Canal.
On impact, Fernandez and his two passengers, 27-year-old Emilio Macias and 25-year-old Eduardo Rivero, were thrown from the boat.
Before the crash, the trio had spent an hour and forty-five minutes at American Social in Brickell. They left around 2:42 a.m. and hit the jetty just after 3 a.m. Before leaving, Fernandez reportedly purchased two bottles of Don Julio tequila and three alcoholic beverages.
At the time of the crash, all three men had been drinking but only Fernandez was over the legal limit.
Fernandez’s blood ethanol level between .14 percent and .16 percent, or two the legal limit, according to toxicology results. Fernandez and Rivero also had cocaine in their system, according to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office report.
The report said investigators found the throttles in the forward, full throttle position. The steering column had been torn off and the steering wheel was missing.
Fernandez’s body was found under the boat, pinned between it and boulder. The report said his face had sustained severe trauma, so they couldn’t use his driver’s license to confirm his identity. Investigators ended up using his MLB identification card and tattoos on his body to confirm his identity.
Rivero’s body was found underwater on the north side of the jetty, partially pinned under a boulder.
Macias was located near the bow, submerged in a tidal pool adjacent to the jetty.
The families of Macias and Rivero have filed personal injury and negligence lawsuits in their deaths.
Using physical evidence gathered from the crash scene, investigators determined that Fernandez was piloting the boat when it crashed.
The report also stated that an FWC investigator received a tip via from someone who said he had reason to believe that Fernandez was driving the night of the accident. The email had a link to a person named Will Bernal’s Instagram account. Bernal, a friend of Rivero, had posted a photo of a text message conversation he had with Rivero the night of the accident.
In the text thread, Bernal stated “keep him close to shore” and “keep Jose cool.” He told Rivero if he needed Bernal to meet up with him to “cool down for support” to let him know. When contacted by investigators, Bernal said he had no idea what they needed to “cool down” about.
The attorney representing the family of Fernandez, his mother and the mother of his child, is critical of the report’s findings.
“I’m very critical of both the fact finding and the conclusions reached. I think they were stacked conclusions. One of things that became clear is they sought no outside assistance to reconstruct the accident,” said Ralph Hernandez.
Miami Marlins President David Samson released a statement Thursday morning following the release of the FWC’s report.
“No matter what the report has concluded, nothing will ever diminish Jose’s everlasting positive connection with Miami and the Miami Marlins,” the statement read. “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”