October 29, 2016 / 8:56 PM / 3 years ago

Miami baseball star Fernandez was drunk, had cocaine in system at fatal crash

(Reuters) - Miami Marlins star Jose Fernandez, a dominant pro baseball pitcher and hero in Miami’s Cuban community, was legally drunk and had cocaine in his system when he was killed in a boat crash in late September, an autopsy and toxicology report released on Saturday found.

Sep 27, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; A moment of silence is observed for Miami Marlins Jose Fernandez who was killed in a boating accident prior to the New York Yankees taking on the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The toxicology report showed Fernandez had a blood-alcohol content level of 0.147, nearly twice the legal limit of 0.08 for driving in Florida, and also had cocaine in his blood.

Fernandez, 24, and two other men were killed before dawn on Sept. 25 when their 32-foot boat struck a rock jetty off Miami Beach, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. It was unclear who was driving the boat.

Born and raised in Cuba, Fernandez tried three times to defect to the United States before arriving at age 15 with his mother, surviving harrowing conditions at sea.

The Marlins drafted Fernandez in the first round in 2011. He won National League Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was a two-time Major League Baseball all-star.

Ralph Fernandez, an attorney for the pitcher’s family and a longtime friend who said he considered him like a son, said he was angry and disappointed at the report’s release before the details of a full investigation are known.

“If indeed there was cocaine in his system, whatever the nominal amount is, still it is something that’s completely out of character,” Fernandez said.

The attorney said there was evidence that just before the crash, the pitcher was talking on a phone with a man who heard the player giving someone else directions on driving the boat, then a loud noise and the call dropped.

“Definitely, he wasn’t driving,” Fernandez said.

Emilio Jesus Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25, were also killed in the crash. Both had alcohol in their system below legal limits and Rivero tested positive for cocaine, according to the reports.

All three men sustained blunt-force trauma to the head and other injuries, the reports said.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he ordered the reports released after the Miami Herald newspaper sued the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner seeking their release under open records laws.

Gimenez had withheld the information at the request of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, which sought to delay the release until it concluded a criminal investigation.

Gimenez said he ordered the records released after the state agency refused to join the county as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

A Fish & Wildlife spokeswoman said the report would provide invaluable information for the investigation.

Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis, editing by G Crosse

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