Saturday 22 October 2016

Miami Baseball superstar dies in boating accident

Published 25/09/2016 | 16:28

Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park. Picture: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park. Picture: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
National League pitcher Jose Fernandez (16) of the Miami Marlins during media day for the MLB All Star Game at the Grand Hyatt. Fernandez has died age 24, the team confirmed in a statement on September 25, 2016 with media reports saying he was killed in a boating accident on Miami Beach. Picture: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports/File

Baseball star Jose Fernandez, who escaped Cuba to become one of the sports rising stars in the Miami Marlins team, has been killed in a boating accident.

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He was 24.

He and two other people died when their 32-foot vessel slammed into a jetty off Miami Beach early on Sunday, authorities said.

"Sadly, the brightest lights are often the ones that extinguish the fastest," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said. "Jose left us far too soon, but his memory will endure in all of us. At this difficult time, our prayers are with his mother, grandmother, family and friends."

Reaction quickly poured in from around the game. Major League Baseball (MLB) 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," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "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 on Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves was cancelled.

Fernandez was on a boat that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, said official Lorenzo Veloz. The overturned boat remained in the water for several hours after the accident, its engine partially submerged as its nose pointed skyward, as debris from the crash was scattered over some of the large jagged rocks.

The destroyed boat was eventually towed away.

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.

The names of the other two individuals are being withheld pending notification of relatives, the Coast Guard said.

"It does appear that speed was involved due to the impact and the severity of it," said Mr Veloz. "It does appear to be that they were coming at full speed when they encountered the jetty, and the accident happened."

Mr Veloz said there was no immediate indication that alcohol or drugs were a cause in the crash. He also said none of the victims wore a life jacket.

"It does pertain to a friend of Jose who is very well connected with several Marlins players and I have stopped that boat before for safety inspections with other Marlins players on board," Mr Veloz said. "We know that this boat knows the area. We just can't answer why this happened."

Fernandez 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.

Last week Fernandez posted a photo of his girlfriend sporting a "baby bump" on his Instagram page, announcing that the couple were expecting their first child.

"I'm so glad you came into my life," Fernandez wrote in that post. "I'm ready for where this journey is gonna take us together."

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