Miami Marlins Pitcher Joseph Fernandez’s Death Spurs Federal Agency Investigation of Jetty in Miami Beach

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It has been less than a month since the shocking death of Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a horrible recreational boating accident when the 32-foot powerboat he was a passenger in crashed into a rocky jetty off Miami Beach. Fernandez’s two friends, Emilio Jesus Macias and Eduardo Rivero, both from Miami, also died as a result of the crash. The U.S. Coast Guard found their boat turned upside down on the north jetty of Government Cut,  a channel that connects the Atlantic Ocean into Biscayne Bay of Miami.

Although it had been reported that the boat was traveling at a high rate of speed, the accident that occurred at night has now resulted in a federal agency investigation into whether or not the jetty and surrounding areas should be better marked and lighted.

According to a Miami Herald article, the federal agency is sending out a survey to boaters asking their opinions about the sufficiency of the markings and lighting in the area. The protruded jetties are very difficult to observe at night time, and since the tragic death of Fernandez and his friends, several boaters have come forward and voiced concerns about the lack of lighting. Although there has been no reported deaths such as the three deaths in the Fernandez boat crash,  there have been other incidents involving close calls with the jetty.

United States Senator Marco Rubio is among those who stated that he firsthand experienced the difficulty with this jetty, requesting for the U.S. Coast Guard to implement some kind of warning for the jetty. This week the Coast Guard responded saying they are beginning another review on whether the jetty needs more lighting. Also included in the letter was the fact that in November 2015 an investigation of this jetty was found to have “met the needs of the mariner.”

We will continue to report on the results of the investigation and whether any changes are made to this area, which we believe is dangerous at night, and definitely requires additional markings, warnings, and lighting. A tragedy like this would likely not have occurred had there been adequate lighting and warnings, instead of simply relying upon the boat operator’s familiarity with the charting in the area. This is an unsafe and dangerous condition. Although the jetty cannot be eliminated, precautions can be taken in order to avoid another tragic accident.

Although the he investigation has not yet revealed the cause of the accident, we have recently heard that the families of Fernandez’s two friends have hired attorneys.  There are several aspects of the accident that must be considered, including negligence on the part of the boat operator. According to court documents released this past Wednesday, the bodies of Fernandez, Macias, and Rivero, all had a “strong odor of alcohol.”  Although we still do not know who was operating the boat at that time, an investigator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission stated that the boat was driven recklessly around the jetty and that alcohol increased the reckless driving. This conflicts with reports made the day of the crash stating that there appeared to be no alcohol or drugs involved.

Most importantly, whether advanced warnings and other precautions should have been taken by the authorities who had been made aware of the dangerous reputation of this jetty must also be considered.

As we had discussed in our last post about Fernandez, included in the contributing factors in  boating fatalities, according to reports published by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2015, were collisions with a fixed object and alcohol. With Florida having the most boating fatalities in the country, these are factors that must be addressed. Whether it means having and enforcing more boating regulations in terms of drinking while boating, or better illuminating fixed objects in the water, we clearly need to make some changes or this will not be the last boating tragedy we hear of.

Our maritime Miami-based firm has been handling maritime personal injury and wrongful death cases involving recreational boating and water sport accidents for over 30 years. However, we simply do not wait for accidents to happen and then get involved. Rather, our firm acts as safety advocates interested in not only helping those who have been injured or harmed in a boating accident, but also as advocates of legislation and awareness to prevent future harm on the water.

Sources: Coast Guard probing jetty where Jose Fernandez died in boat crash, Miami Herald.

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