Jose Fernandez identified as operator in fatal boat crash

FWC completes investigation into crash that killed Marlins pitcher, 2 others

By Peter Burke - Managing Editor

MIAMI - Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials have released their final report into a boating crash that killed Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez.

Fernandez was the operator of the boat, the FWC concluded in its final report, released Thursday.

The Marlins ace, along with passengers Emilio Macias and Eduardo Rivero, was killed in the Sept. 25, 2016, crash in Miami Beach.

According to the report, the boat was traveling at 65 mph when it struck the northern portion of the jetty at Government Cut.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue divers found Fernandez's body pinned between the boat's T-top and a boulder on the jetty. Macias' body was found near the bow of the boat, submerged in a tidal pool near the jetty, while Rivero's head and chest were found under a boulder in the water.

Investigators said DNA evidence collected from the steering wheel and throttle of the boat was linked to Fernandez.

The report contradicts Fernandez's attorney, who has maintained that the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year was not operating the boat.

"No matter what the report has concluded, nothing will ever diminish Jose's everlasting positive connection with Miami and the Miami Marlins," team president David Samson said in a statement to Local 10 News. "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."

As previously revealed, the report details how the men had been at American Social hours earlier, where receipts show that Fernandez purchased two bottles of Don Julio tequila and three other alcoholic beverages.

A toxicology report revealed that Fernandez had cocaine in his system at the time of his death.

According to the report, Rivero's sister told investigators that she couldn't remember "her brother ever being on a boat before" and was pretty sure it was the first time he had been on Fernandez's boat. Rivero's girlfriend told investigators that she was surprised to learn that Rivero was on a boat because "she knew he was afraid of the ocean."

A text exchange between Rivero and Fernandez's girlfriend, Maria Arias, showed that she was concerned about Fernandez.

"Take care of him please," Arias said in a text message.

"What's going on?" Rivero replied.

"He's been drinking and he's not in the best state of mind," Arias said, adding that they had recently gotten into an argument.

Investigators concluded that Fernandez operated in a "reckless manner, at an extremely high rate of speed, in the darkness of night, in an area with known navigational hazards such as rock jetties and channel markers." Investigators said Fernandez was also operating the boat with the clear vinyl windshield enclosure in place, which likely impaired his visibility.

Autopsies completed by the Miami-Dade County medical examiner's office determined that blunt-force trauma and drowning were the causes of death for all three victims.

The families of Macias and Rivero have since filed wrongful-death lawsuits. Both are seeking $2 million in damages.

"We want to emphasize that this accident was a tragedy for all concerned," attorney Christopher Royer, who represents the families, said in a statement. "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."

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