Sen. Marco Rubio requested an investigation Wednesday into the jetty where Marlins superstar José Fernández and two friends were killed in a weekend boat crash.
“The big problem is if it’s high tide and it’s flat out there and the waves aren’t crashing on it, you can miss it,” Rubio said of the rocky spit off Miami Beach where Fernández died early Sunday morning. “You’re on top of it so fast.”
Rubio, a Florida Republican from West Miami seeking reelection in November, made his request to the pair of federal agencies responsible for the channels and navigational aids designed to keep boaters away from the two unlit jetties that flank Miami Beach’s Government Cut inlet. Fernández, Emilio Macias and Eduardo Rivero died Sunday on the baseball star’s powerboat, which landed upside down on the northern jetty.
There was no immediate response from the U.S. Coast Guard, which oversees navigational aids, or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains the jetties. Rubio’s letter to the agencies mentioned his experience as a boat owner in Miami, and echoed comments from other recreational skippers that the northern jetty can be easy to miss.
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“As a boater myself, I have experienced firsthand the challenges this particular jetty can present to others trying to navigate around it,” he wrote. “I respectfully request your agencies coordinate to produce a comprehensive assessment of the jetty near the Government Cut channel as well as offer any pertinent recommendations to enhance safety for boaters to navigate around and through them.”
No lights illuminate the jetties, and the northern one in particular has spots underwater during high tides. Fernández’s 32-foot powerboat, the Kaught Looking, was found crashed on the jetty around 3:30 a.m., about 45 minutes before high tide.
Rubio’s letter cited a Miami Herald article about the jetty’s potential hazards, and he said it was not enough to rely on good seamanship to avoid hazards. “Responsibility falls on each individual to follow safety standards, as well as our governments and agencies to maintain navigational beacons and permitted structures that may be potential safety threats,” he wrote.
A well-marked channel leads to Government Cut, and includes a flashing red marker southeast of the jetty that gives careful mariners a beacon for avoiding the rocks. But Sunday’s accident brought unprecedented attention to the jetty’s dangers. Not only was it the most horrific crash in recent memory on the jetty, it involved someone who may be the most famous person to die in a Miami boating wreck.
After the crash, a Coast Guard spokesman said the agency had analyzed Government Cut’s safety features during a routine review last year and found them adequate. A Corps spokeswoman said the Fernández crash may prompt another look at whether to light the jetties, depending on what investigators say about the circumstances of the collision.
Jack Garcia, a retired commander from Miami-Dade’s marine-rescue squad, said he’s been to enough mishaps by the jetties to know they require some sort of beacon.
“In my book, that definitely qualifies as a hazard to navigation,” Garcia said of the northern jetty, which juts out farther into the ocean than the southern jetty does. “All they need to do is put a danger marker on the rocks.”