American Social Bar & Restaurant: Marlins' Jose Fernandez Was There Before Fatal Boat Accident

Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was a patron at a Miami River bar and restaurant before he and two friends were killed in a boat crash, a spokeswoman for the establishment confirmed Tuesday.

American Social Bar & Restaurant spokeswoman Dana Rhoden said in an email that Fernandez was there before the accident. The statement did not say whether Fernandez had been drinking, how long he had been there or what time he left.

"Jose Fernandez was a guest at American Social. We would like to extend our sincerest condolences, thoughts and prayers to the families and friends who share in the loss of the three victims involved in this tragic boating accident and to the Miami Marlins organization," American Social management said in a statement.

The bar is along the Miami River in the city's downtown section and allows boats to dock alongside.

Fernandez, 24, died when the boat he owned slammed at high speed into a rock jetty early Sunday just off South Beach, investigators say. Emilio Jesus Macias, 27, and 25-year-old Eduardo Rivero also died.

Rivero's friend, Will Bernal, said he raised concerns in text messages before their fatal late-night trip. Bernal said he sent several texts to Rivero after midnight Sunday, urging him not to go out on the water.

The texts, which Bernal posted on social media, asked Rivero turn on his "find iPhone" application and to try to get Fernandez to keep the boat close to shore.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating the incident. Spokesman Rob Klepper said in an interview Tuesday that there's no timetable, and "we will provide a complete and thorough investigative report."

The 32-foot boat named "Kaught Looking" - the "K" is backwards, signifying a strikeout when the batter does not swing - will be thoroughly checked for clues as to why the accident occurred, authorities said. Miami-Dade County prosecutors have obtained search warrants for wildlife commission investigators seeking access to the vessel, said Ed Griffith, a spokesman for the state attorney's office.

"As you know, FWC has a duty to investigate fatal boating accidents like this one," Griffith said in an email. "Since the incident involved a single boat and there were no survivors, there can be no criminal prosecution derived from the FWC investigation."

Klepper said the wildlife commission has no record of any previous citation or warning involving the boat, Fernandez or the other two men who died. Normally vessel stops are not documented unless a warning or citation is issued, he added.

The Miami-Dade County medical examiner has not yet released toxicology results that might determine if Fernandez or the other two victims had been drinking or taken illegal drugs. Klepper said that report would be part of the wildlife commission's completed investigation. Authorities previously said no evidence of alcohol or drugs was found at the crash scene.

City of Miami Beach officials confirmed that a bag containing four baseballs signed by Fernandez and a checkbook was found by a beachgoer, the Miami Herald reported. The bag was believed to have been thrown from the boat when it crashed, and was in the possession of the FWC, the Herald report said.

Meanwhile, there will be a public funeral procession for Fernandez on Wednesday. The procession will leave Marlins Park at 2:16 p.m. and will travel to Ermita de la Caridad church at 3609 South Miami Avenue then St. Brendan Catholic Church at 8725 Southwest 32nd Street for a public viewing. The public viewing will be held from 4 p.m. until midnight Wednesday.

A funeral for Fernandez will be held Thursday but will be closed to the public.

Enormously popular in Miami's large Cuban-American community, Fernandez defected from Cuba at age 15, won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2013 and became a two-time All-Star. He had been scheduled to pitch Monday night against the New York Mets, a game that instead became a tribute to him and remembrance of his life.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson introduced a resolution honoring Fernandez for his journey to America and his contributions to Florida.

"Jose Fernandez was the embodiment of the American Dream," said Rubio. "He risked his life escaping tyranny in Cuba to seek liberty and opportunity in America. Jose was thrown in jail by the Castro regime for attempting to flee, and when his mother fell overboard into choppy waters during their journey, Jose risked his life to save her so they could arrive in America together. It is a testament to the kind of person he was. This resolution honors Jose’s life, legacy and contributions to the people and state of Florida."

"Jose Fernandez was a remarkable young man whose talent and passion for the game of baseball brought joy to so many in South Florida," Nelson said. "He will certainly be missed both on and off the field, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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