MIAMI (AP) – Jose Fernandez, the ace right-hander for the Miami Marlins who escaped Cuba to become one of baseball’s brightest stars, was killed in a boating accident early Sunday morning. Fernandez was 24.
Authorities said Fernandez was one of three people killed in a crash off Miami Beach.
Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi told The Associated Press that a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted an overturned boat at 3:30 a.m. on a jetty near Government Cut. The bodies were discovered a short time later.
In the statement, the Marlins say they are “devastated by the tragic loss of José Fernández. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time.”
“Hands down one of my favorite guys to watch pitch! He brought nothing but intensity and passion,” Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price said on Twitter early Sunday.
Because the boat was on a jetty, the Coast Guard notified Miami-Dade police, which turned the investigation over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a “severe impact” with a jetty, said FWC’s Lorenzo Veloz. The overturned boat remained in the water Sunday morning, its engine partially submerged as its nose pointed skyward, as debris from the crash was scattered over some of the large jagged rocks.
The Marlins’ game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves has been canceled. The Braves, along with several other teams, quickly shared their condolences with the Marlins.
Major League Baseball released a statement saying it was “stunned and devastated.”
“He was one of our game’s great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organization and all of the people he touched in his life.”
Fernandez’s death immediately brought memories of past baseball tragedies, such as the deaths of Thurman Munson and Roberto Clemente – stars who died in plane crashes in the 1970s.
Cleveland teammates Steve Olin and Tim Crews were killed in a boating accident in 1993, and the game also reeled from the sudden deaths of major leaguers Darryl Kile, Lyman Bostock and Cory Lidle in recent years.
“Jose was a remarkable young man and a tremendously gifted athlete, who, at just 24, established himself as one of the game’s biggest and brightest stars,” said Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jose’s family, friends, teammates, Miami Marlins organization and legions of fans in the United States and Latin America.”
The Miami Dolphins said they would have a moment of silence before their game in nearby Miami Gardens on Sunday afternoon to remember Fernandez.
City of Miami Fire-Rescue workers were seen carrying bodies, draped and on stretchers, at the Coast Guard station after sunrise Sunday. The names of the other two individuals are being withheld pending notification of relatives, the Coast Guard said.
Fernandez was a two-time All-Star who went 38-17 in his four seasons with the Marlins, winning the NL’s Rookie of the Year award in 2013. The native of Santa Clara, Cuba became a U.S. citizen last year and was enormously popular in Miami.
He tried to defect from Cuba at least three times – landing in jail after one of those unsuccessful tries – before eventually getting to the U.S. and going to high school in Tampa, Florida. The Marlins drafted him in 2011 and Fernandez was in the majors two years later.
“I’m still in shock,” former Marlins player Gaby Sanchez said on Twitter. “The world has lost a remarkable person. You will be missed and my heart goes out to the Fernandez family.”
(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)