Scene of tragedy: Pitcher José Fernandez dies on the water
Miami-Dade police want lights on the jetty off South Beach where Jose Fernandez crashed his boat on a drunken early-morning trip that killed the star Marlins pitcher and two passengers last year.
Calling unlit jetties “a serious threat to boaters,” a county memo this week described Miami-Dade’s recommendation for installing lights on the rock-strewn fingers off South Beach’s Government Cut and similar breakwaters off Haulover Inlet near Bal Harbour. Miami-Dade made the recommendations to the U.S. Coast Guard, which launched a safety review of Government Cut after Fernandez’s death on Sept. 25, 2016.
“Government Cut and Bakers Haulover Jetties pose a serious threat to boaters, especially during nighttime operations,” read the June 12 memo from Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who has authority over the police department. He wrote that the agency’s marine unit asked the Coast Guard “to add lighting to both jetties along Government Cut to better serve boating traffic during nighttime operations. Additional recommendations were made to add lighting to the Haulover Inlet jetties as well.”
The Coast Guard hasn’t announced the results of its review, but past studies concluded the jetties aren’t hazards for boat operators following standard navigational rules. The jetty where Fernandez died, and another one to the south, flank Government Cut’s lighted channel, which has illuminated beacons designed to lead mariners to safe harbor. Local boaters have complained the dark rocks jutting into the ocean off South Beach can be impossible to see at night, endangering skippers who lose their bearings or are unfamiliar with the channel markers.
[After the Fernandez crash, the Miami Herald visited the jetty where the star pitcher and two passengers died. Read about what we saw (and couldn’t see).]
Fernandez was outside the channel when he collided with the northern jetty. State investigators concluded Fernandez was at the wheel of his 32-foot SeaVee powerboat at the time, legally intoxicated and with cocaine in his system. The crash killed the 24-year-old professional athlete and passengers Emilio Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25. Investigators said the boat was going 66 mph at the time of the 3:02 a.m. crash, the throttle pushed all the way forward.
Gimenez’s memo was to county commissioners as part of a requested update on efforts by Miami-Dade to improve boating safety.