The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s investigation into the boat crash that took the lives of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez and two friends last year was “a woeful effort riddled with error, misstatements, speculation and faulty reasoning,” according to a scathing court filing by a lawyer for Fernandez’s family.
The filing by Tampa legal eagle Ralph Fernandez, who had no family relation with the pitcher but considered him a son, was in response to a motion by the surviving relatives of Jose’s two dead friends asking the MLB ball player for punitive damages.
In their lawsuit filed in February, the families of Emilio Macias and Eduardo Rivero used the findings from the FWC probe, including that Fernandez was driving the fast boat at the time of the crash with a blood alcohol level three times the DUI limit and cocaine in his system, to press for millions in punitive damages.
The report, by the way, also mentioned the boat was likely going 65 mph in near complete darkness when the crash occurred off Miami Beach Sept. 25, 2016.
In this week’s response, Ralph Fernandez punched gaping holes in FWC’s investigative report and exposed some of 30-plus “areas of concerns.”
Those include: No photos and videos showed where the bodies were found by fire rescue; the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s office didn’t follow procedures by performing the autopsy on the dead without FWC investigators standing by; FWC conducted no immediate forensics where the boat crashed but, instead, allowed its towing to a dock on rough seas, compromising potential evidence; a number of videos that caught the boat riding past were not usable but, according to Ralph Fernandez’s filing, FWC failed to enhance them electronically; and information from a phone call made on Jose Fernandez’s phone just before impact was disregarded.
Ralph Fernandez’s filing this week also mentions that FWC’s belief that the Marlins star was at the helm came from an anonymous tip to a hotline.
“We have no idea who the caller was,” Fernandez, the lawyer, said. “Could be a homeless guy on the street mouthing off. They (FWC) won’t tell us.”
In his filing, Ralph Fernandez also alludes to surveillance videos at American Social, the Miami River watering hole that served the ballplayer some of the last drinks he had before getting on the water, that are likely to show something that could exonerate partly big No. 16.
Had they properly evaluated those videos, Ralph Fernandez writes in the filing, the investigators would probably have reevaluated their findings.
“It’s hard to fathom how an investigation of this significance could lead to a report of such a poor quality,” Ralph Fernandez said Wednesday morning.
FWC Spokeswoman Susan Smith failed to return a call and an email for comment.