Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was a patron at a Miami River bar and restaurant the same night he and two friends were killed in a boat crash, a spokeswoman for the establishment confirmed Tuesday.
A friend of one of the victims said he warned him against the post-midnight trip, and Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna said he and at least two other teammates turned down invitations to go and tried to discourage Fernandez from going out.
American Social Bar & Kitchen spokeswoman Dana Rhoden said in an email that Fernandez was there before the accident. The statement did not say whether Fernandez had been drinking or what time he left.
The bar is along the Miami River in the city’s downtown section and allows boats to dock alongside.
Fernandez, 24, died when the boat he owned slammed at high speed into a rock jetty early Sunday just off South Beach, investigators say. Emilio Jesus Macias, 27, and 25-year-old Eduardo Rivero also died.
A friend of Rivero’s, Will Bernal, said they texted each other shortly after midnight, before the trio pushed off. Bernal posted the messages on social media.
“Yo please be careful bro,” Bernal texted at 12:07 a.m.
“I will bro,” Rivero said.
“Try to keep him close to shore if you go out,” Bernal wrote back.
“Trust me,” Rivero wrote, “it’s not my time yet.”
Bernal then asked Rivero to turn on his “find iPhone” application and to “keep Jose cool.”
Ozuna, perhaps Fernandez’s closest friend on the team, said all of the players knew Fernandez planned to go out on the boat that night.
“It was a bad decision for him,” Ozuna said. “He heard everybody say, ‘No, go back to your house and take it easy.’ Then you wake up and see the news.”
Fernandez apparently had concerns he might be late to the ballpark for Sunday’s 1:10 p.m. game, because he asked Ozuna for a wake-up call.
“He said, `If I’m not here by 10, call me,”‘ Ozuna said.
The Marlins announced a public viewing will be held Wednesday at a Miami church, preceded by a funeral procession scheduled to start at 2:16 p.m. outside the team’s downtown ballpark. Fernandez wore No. 16 on his jersey.
A private funeral will be held Thursday for the Fernandez family and Marlins players and personnel.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating. Spokesman Rob Klepper said in an interview Tuesday that there’s no timetable, and “we will provide a complete and thorough investigative report.”
The 32-foot boat named “Kaught Looking” – the “K” is backwards, signifying a strikeout when the batter does not swing – will be thoroughly checked for clues as to why the accident occurred, authorities said. Miami-Dade County prosecutors have obtained search warrants for wildlife commission investigators seeking access to the vessel, said Ed Griffith, a spokesman for the state attorney’s office.
“As you know, FWC has a duty to investigate fatal boating accidents like this one,” Griffith said in an email. “Since the incident involved a single boat and there were no survivors, there can be no criminal prosecution derived from the FWC investigation.”
Klepper said the wildlife commission has no record of any previous citation or warning involving the boat, Fernandez or the other two men who died. Normally vessel stops are not documented unless a warning or citation is issued, he added.
The Miami-Dade County medical examiner has not yet released toxicology results that might determine if Fernandez or the other two victims were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Klepper said that report would be part of the wildlife commission’s completed investigation. Authorities previously said no evidence of alcohol or drugs was found at the crash scene.
On Capitol Hill, Florida’s U.S. senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, introduced a resolution Tuesday honoring Fernandez for his journey from communist Cuba to Major League Baseball stardom and his contributions to the community.
The resolution notes that Fernandez was jailed in Cuba after an unsuccessful attempt to defect and once saved his mother from drowning after she fell from a boat off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
“He risked his life escaping tyranny in Cuba to seek liberty and opportunity in America,” Rubio, also a Cuban-American, said in a news release.
Meanwhile, a beachgoer found a bag containing four baseballs signed by the Marlins pitcher, WSVN-TV reported.
The station reported a black bag containing Jose Fernandez’s checkbook and four autographed baseballs apparently washed ashore on Miami Beach not far from the accident site.
Ocean Rescue Division Chief Vincent Canosa said the bag was given to a lifeguard and that it apparently came from the boat.
Enormously popular in Miami’s large Cuban-American community, Fernandez defected from Cuba at age 15, won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2013 and became a two-time All-Star. He had been scheduled to pitch Monday night against the New York Mets, a game that instead became a tribute to him and remembrance of his life.
(AP Sports Writer Steven Wine contributed to this report.)
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