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Marine safety

Tragic loss: Miami Marlins ace pitcher Jose Fernandez killed in boat crash

Major League Baseball ‘stunned and devastated’ by death of one of the brightest stars in the game

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 September, 2016, 11:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 January, 2018, 4:16pm

Jose Fernandez, the ace right-hander for the Miami Marlins who escaped Cuba to become one of baseball’s brightest stars, was killed in a boating accident on Sunday. Fernandez was 24.

Authorities said Fernandez was one of three people killed in a crash off Miami Beach.

Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi said a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted an overturned boat in the early hours on a jetty. The bodies were discovered a short time later, and officials said speed played a factor.

“We are devastated by the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez,” the Marlins said in a statement.

Reaction quickly poured in from around the game. Major League Baseball released a statement saying it was “stunned and devastated”.

“He was one of our game’s great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013,” said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organisation and all of the people he touched in his life.”

The Marlins’ game at home against the Atlanta Braves, due to have been played Monday morning (Hong Kong time) was cancelled. The Braves, along with several other teams, quickly shared their condolences with the Marlins.

“Hands down one of my favourite guys to watch pitch! He brought nothing but intensity and passion,” Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price said on Twitter.

Officials said Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a “severe impact” with a jetty. Debris from the crash was scattered over large jagged rocks nearby.

Fernandez’s death immediately brought memories of past baseball tragedies, such as the deaths of Thurman Munson and Roberto Clemente – stars who died in plane crashes in the 1970s.

Cleveland teammates Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed in a boating accident in Florida in 1993, and the game also reeled from the sudden deaths of major leaguers Darryl Kile, Lyman Bostock and Cory Lidle in recent years.

“Jose was a remarkable young man and a tremendously gifted athlete, who, at just 24, established himself as one of the game’s biggest and brightest stars,” said Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jose’s family, friends, teammates, Miami Marlins organisation and legions of fans in the United States and Latin America.”

City of Miami Fire-Rescue workers were seen carrying bodies, draped and on stretchers, at the Coast Guard station. Two bodies were found under the vessel and a third was found on the jetty, said Captain Leonel Reyes of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Marine Services Bureau.

There was no immediate indication that alcohol or drugs were a cause in the crash but none of the victims had worn life jackets, and that the boat was owned by a friend of Fernandez’s.

Fernandez was a two-time All-Star who went 38-17 in his four seasons with the Marlins, winning the NL’s Rookie of the Year award in 2013. The native of Santa Clara, Cuba, became a US citizen last year and was enormously popular in Miami.

He tried to defect from Cuba at least three times – landing in jail after one of those unsuccessful tries – before eventually getting to the US and going to high school in Tampa, Florida. The Marlins drafted him in 2011 and Fernandez was in the majors two years later.

“I’m still in shock,” former Marlins player Gaby Sanchez said on Twitter. “The world has lost a remarkable person. You will be missed and my heart goes out to the Fernandez family.”