Investigation into Jose Fernandez crash concludes he was driving boat, intoxicated

In September of last year, Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez and two others -- Emilio Jesus Macias and Eduardo Rivero -- were killed in a boat accident just off Miami Beach. The recent release of a 46-page investigative report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) sheds further light on the crash that killed the three men. 

In light of the new information, here’s what we know so far:

  • About 3 am on the morning of Sept. 25, 2016, the 32-foot SeaVee center console boat crashed into a jetty off the coast of Miami Beach at a speed of 65 mph. All three men were thrown from the boat. The wrecked vessel was found in full-throttle position. 
  • Fernandez’s body was found pinned under the boat. Because of facial injuries, he could not be identified using only his driver’s license. Instead, investigators used his MLB ID card and his tattoos to identify him. Macias’ body was found submerged in a nearby tidal pool, and Rivero’s body was found partially trapped under a boulder. All were pronounced dead at about 4 am. 
  • Here’s how the FWC recounted the discovery of the boat at the time: “A boat crew from Coast Guard Station Miami Beach was heading out on a law enforcement patrol at approximately 3:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, when they passed the jetty along Government Cut and discovered an overturned 32-foot SeaVee center console boat on the jetty.”
  • According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission probe, Fernandez was indeed driving the boat at the time of the accident. This runs counter to earlier claims by the Fernandez family attorney that he had proof that Fernandez was not in fact the driver of the boat. Here’s how the Palm Beach post summarizes that section of the FWC report: “Investigators found Fernandez’s DNA on the steering wheel and the throttle of Kaught Looking, his 32-foot SeaVee, which struck a jetty at the southern tip of Miami Beach just after 3 a.m. that morning. Fernandez’ body also lurched forward upon impact, with his legs hitting the center console, according to the FWC report.”
  • As well, the investigation confirmed that Fernandez had alcohol in his system. Specifically, he registered a blood ethanol rate of between .14 and .16 -- or roughly twice the legal limit. The three men prior to the crash had been at American Social, a Miami gastropub, and had reportedly purchased alcohol while there, including, reportedly, two bottles of Don Julio tequila and three alcoholic beverages to take with them when they departed in the boat. Eighteen minutes after leaving American Social, the fatal crash occurred. As well, the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office report revealed that Fernandez and Rivero each had cocaine in his system. 
  • To sum up, the report concludes (via Mike Clary of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel): “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. ... 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.”
  • The report further concludes that if Fernandez had survived the accident, then he “could have faced charges of manslaughter, for boating while Intoxicated, vessel homicide and reckless or careless operation.”
  • Those findings could have significant legal implications for Fernandez’s estate since the families of Macias and Rivero have reportedly filed wrongful death lawsuits against the Fernandez estate and are each seeking $2 million in damages. Said estate is reportedly valued between $2-3 million and will be split between Fernandez’s mother and girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time of the crash and recently gave birth to a baby girl.

Fernandez would’ve been going into his age-24 season with the Marlins.

CBS Sports Writer

Dayn Perry has been a baseball writer for CBS Sports since early 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for FOXSports.com and ESPN.com. He's the author of three books, the most recent being Reggie Jackson: The... Full Bio

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