Toxicology report shows Jose Fernandez drunk, used cocaine

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez had cocaine in his system and was legally drunk when he was killed in a boating accident last month, according to autopsy and toxicology reports obtained by ESPN on Saturday.

A toxicology report from the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Departmentshowed that cocaine and multiple other substances were detected in Fernandez's blood. Fernandez, 24, had a blood alcohol content of .147, nearly twice the legal limit, when his boat crashed into a Miami Beach jetty Sept. 25.

Two of Fernandez's friends, Emilio Jesus Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25, were also killed in the crash. Their toxicology reports show that neither was past the blood alcohol legal limit, though cocaine was found in Rivero's blood.

Dr. Kenneth Hutchins, associate medical examiner, wrote in the reportthat each man had suffered blunt-force injuries to his head and body.

It is unknown who was driving the boat at the time of the crash.

Ralph Fernandez, the family's attorney and of no relation to the pitcher, told The Miami Herald that investigators have strong evidence that Fernandez was not piloting the boat. He called the cocaine use out of character for the pitcher.

"That leads me to think, could this be an isolated incident? Yes. Could this have been involuntary? Yes. Why do you think there's still a criminal investigation pending?" the attorney said.

Authorities have interviewed a "highly reliable" witness who said he was on the phone with Fernandez just before the crash and heard the pitcher giving another person directions about where to steer the boat, he said.

"If you tell me that he'd been drinking, I'd say, 'So?'" Ralph Fernandez said. "He wasn't driving, and he was very careful about that."

Players with Major League Baseball contracts have been tested for performance-enhancing substances since 2004, and violations are announced publicly, but there is no random testing for drugs such as cocaine, and players generally aren't suspended for abusing those drugs unless they fail to comply with a treatment program or are convicted for drug use, possession, sale or distribution.

USA Today, citing a high-ranking MLB official, reported Saturday night thatFernandez never tested positive for cocaine under the league's drug-testing program, nor was he in any type of drug rehab.

"His death was a tragedy," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said before Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday, according to USA Today. "These facts were unfortunate. But it doesn't alter the fact he was a great, great player, a good young man, and he will be sorely missed in Miami."

The Marlins and Fernandez's agent, Scott Boras, declined to comment on theautopsy and toxicology reports.

Chris Royer, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer representing family members of Macias and Rivero, told the Sun Sentinel that his clients had been told about the findings and would make a statement after taking some time to discuss the reports.

The bodies had a strong odor of alcohol on them when they were recovered by divers, and investigators found evidence that the boat was speeding when it slammed into the jetty, according to a search warrant affidavit released this week by the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office. The affidavit said officials had recovered a receipt for alcohol from American Social Bar & Kitchen, where the trio had been before the crash.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez directed the medical examiner's office to release the autopsy reports Saturday, a day after The Miami Herald sued the medical examiner's office seeking their release.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state agency investigating the crash, previously refused to release the reports. Gimenez said state officials also refused to join the county as co-defendants in The Herald's public records lawsuit.

The autopsy reports "will provide invaluable information to FWC investigators as they conduct a thorough and complete investigation," wildlife commission spokeswoman Susan Smith said in an email.

U.S. Coast Guard officials have said they will examine lighting at the South Beach jetty where the boat crashed. Fernandez, the National League Rookie of the Year in 2013 and a two-time All-Star, owned the 32-foot SeaVee named Kaught Looking.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.