Fernandez was operator of boat in fatal crash

MIAMI — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission concluded in its nearly six-month investigation that former Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was the operator of the speeding boat that crashed and killed Fernandez and two others in the early morning of Sept. 25, 2016.

According to public records obtained by ESPN on Thursday, the FWC’s final report confirmed alcohol and drugs were involved. It also concluded that Fernandez violated multiple boating laws, including Boating Under the Influence Manslaughter, Vessel Homicide and Reckless or Careless Operation of a Vessel.

Fernandez’s blood alcohol level was .147 and there was “noted presence of cocaine,” according to the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s toxicology report.

The speed of the 32-foot vessel during the impact of the crash on the north side of a jetty was 65.7 miles per hour. Fernandez, Eduardo Rivero and Emilio Macias died at the scene due to blunt force impact and drowning.

The report also included a text message exchange that night between Rivero and Maria Arias, Fernandez’s girlfriend. She told Rivero the pair had been arguing and asked him to take care of Fernandez. “He’s been drinking and is not in the best state of mind.”

The report concluded: “Fernandez operated V-1 with his normal faculties impaired, in a reckless manner, at an extreme high rate of speed, in the darkness of night, in an area with known navigational hazards such as rock jetties and channel markers.”

The conclusion that Fernandez was the operator was based in part on the finding that his bruises matched the damage on the boat’s center console. Investigators also noted that his DNA was found on the steering wheel and throttle.

Jose Fernandez’s family attorney, Ralph Fernandez, was critical of the findings, saying the investigators tried hard but were “out of their league.”

“This is the most serious of matters and trying hard is not good enough,” said Ralph Fernandez, who accompanied Jose’s mother, Maritza, and girlfriend, Maria, to a meeting with the commission’s investigators Wednesday night. “This is a high-profile national case, a feather in the cap of an investigator if a conclusion is reached. … There was a bull’s-eye on Jose.”

There is a legal battle coming up between the families of Rivero and Macias and Fernandez’s estate. On Wednesday in a Miami probate court, Maritza and Maria were appointed co-representatives of Fernandez’s estate in advance of pending litigation of wrongful death lawsuits brought by the families.

Ralph Fernandez said the findings of the FWC’s investigation would have no impact on that litigation.

“Whatever happened. there is an admissibility problem and the fact-finding will be subject to analysis,” Ralph Fernandez said. “Either way, both sides would have to rely on top-notch reconstructionists. Hopefully, it won’t get that far. Hopefully, there will be a resolution.”

Thursday afternoon, Marlins president David Samson issued a statement in response to the findings.

“No matter what the report has concluded,” Samson said, “nothing will ever diminish Jose’s everlasting positive connection with Miami and the Miami Marlins. 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.”

ESPN’s Katie Strang and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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