Prosecutors will not charge popular Miami radio personality Lazaro “DJ Laz” Mendez in the boating accident that killed a man off Key Biscayne’s Nixon Beach.
The accident happened in May 2014 when a 42-foot promotional boat helmed by Mendez got stuck in a sandbar. Ernesto Hernandez, 23, was helping others push the vessel when he was fatally sliced by the engine’s propellers.
On Thursday, prosecutors officially concluded that there was no evidence that Mendez was impaired from alcohol that evening, or acted with the “reckless disregard for human life” needed to prove a manslaughter charge.
“This is a tragedy, that is undeniable, but we appreciate the State Attorney’s Office reviewing the clear evidence and not compounding the tragedy by filing criminal charges where none are warranted or appropriate,” said Mendez’s lawyer, Mycki Ratzan. “Though there are no winners here today, justice was served.”
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The tragedy also spurred Key Biscayne to prohibit boats from a portion of the Mashta Flats, the offshore sandbar that has become a popular party site.
At the party spot, Hernandez was among a crowd of people attending a Voli Vodka event. Mendez’s boat was a promotional vessel for the company. When the boat got stuck, Hernandez was part of a group of revelers that tried to free it from the sand when Mendez engaged the engine, killing the man.
Thirteen witnesses on Mendez’s boat told investigators the DJ was not drinking alcohol. Only one woman — who was aboard Hernandez’s nearby boat — claimed that she saw him drinking shots from a vodka bottle.
That evening, there was no probable cause for officers to draw Mendez’s blood, according to a final memo released Thursday.
“The police investigators assessed Lazaro Mendez after the incident and did not see any signs of impairment,” prosecutors Griska Rodriguez and Deisy Hernandez wrote.
There was also a conflicting testimony about whether Mendez or his captain, Jorge Robaina, hollered warnings that he was about to turn on the engine. Several independent witnesses — not aboard either camp’s boat — said warnings were indeed given.
Mendez, in a statement Thursday, said: “My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the Hernandez family as they continue to heal from the loss of Ernesto from the sad, tragic day.”