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Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, drunk and speeding, was behind the wheel and to blame when his boat plowed into a jetty off South Beach, killing two others, police concluded in a report released Thursday.
Had Fernandez lived, he would likely have been charged with a host of crimes including manslaughter, according to the final report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Investigators made the conclusion because the physical damage to Fernandez’s body matched the damage on the boat’s center console. His DNA was also found on the throttle and steering wheel.
The boat, investigators concluded, was traveling at more than 65 miles per hour — just over the top speed of the vessel.
“Fernandez operated [the boat] with his normal faculties impaired, in a reckless manner, at an extreme high rate of speed, in the darkness of the night, in an area with known navigational hazards such as rock jetties and channel markers,” the report concluded.
The release of the report comes nearly six months after Fernandez and two others were killed when the pitcher’s boat plowed into a jetty at Government Cut off South Beach just before down on Sept. 25.
Two others on the boat with him, Emilio Jesus Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25, also were killed.
The report refutes Fernandez’s attorney’s long asserted contention that the pitcher was not behind the wheel of the boat when it crashed. The attorney claimed that at the point of impact, Fernandez was on the phone with a witness who said the pitcher was barking out to someone else to keep left, away from the shore.
But investigators, after reviewing phone records for the witness, a night club manager named Yuri Perez, concluded that the call took place well 12 minutes before the crash – when the boat was still in the Miami River.
The death of the Cuban-born ace pitcher stunned South Florida and the Marlins franchise, which counted Fernandez as one of its cornerstone talents. Teammates donned his jersey in a tear-soaked game after his death, and thousands honored him during a public procession and memorial days after the crash.
For months, investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission — which handles boating deaths in the waters off Miami — had been piecing together the violent crash of the 32-foot boat dubbed the Kaught Looking.
That night, friends told the media, Fernandez had been upset and wanted to blow off some steam after a game in which he did not pitch. Several teammates declined to accompany him on the boat, but his friend Rivero agreed to go along.
They docked at American Social, a trendy watering hole on the Miami River, meeting up with Macias, who lived at the adjacent condo building but had turned in for the night. A friend of Rivero’s, Macias agreed to come down and meet Fernandez; he worked in financial advising and the pitcher could have been a possible client.
The trio went for an impromptu ride that ended just after 3 a.m., when the vessel plowed into north jetty, one of two that border Government Cut, the channel that commercial ships use to enter PortMiami.
A toxicology report released in October showed that Fernandez, 24, was legally drunk and also had cocaine in his system when he died.
Relatives of Macias and Rivero have since filed negligence lawsuits against Fernandez’s estate.