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Latinx Heritage Month

On this day in Latinx history: Marlins’ José Fernández dies in boat crash

The 24-year-old pitcher had become one of MLB’s most dominant players

After fleeing his native Cuba on a speedboat in 2008 to create a better life for himself, Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández ultimately lost his life in a violent speedboat crash on Sept. 25, 2016.

Fernández, who gained U.S. citizenship in 2015, became one of major league baseball’s most dominant players thanks to a wicked fastball and outstanding command of his curveball. A fan favorite, Fernández’s death off South Beach rocked the entire city.

“When I think about José, I see such a little boy. The way he played, there was just joy with him,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of the 24-year-old.

MLB canceled the Marlins’ game against the Atlanta Braves that day, but when the team took the field again on Sept. 26, the players all wore Fernández’s No. 16 jersey.

The No. 16 was drawn onto the back of the mound, and Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon hit a leadoff home run, which immediately brought the 26,993 fans to their feet.

That kick-started a good night for the Marlins’ bats, culminating in a 7-3 win over the New York Mets.

After the victory, each of the starters touched the chalk line, which the right-hander did after every win. At the time of his death, Fernández had a 29-2 record at home, and he had forced a groundout with his final pitch.


The crash occurred around 3:15 a.m., and it was so loud that a Miami Beach police officer immediately called in to the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue patrol boat. A U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat also spotted the overturned boat, Kaught Looking, on the rocky jetty at Government Cut.

Divers found two bodies under the boat, while a third body had sunk to the ocean floor and was discovered an hour after the initial call. The passengers were identified as Eduardo Rivero and Emilio Macias.

A month after the crash, the corner’s office released its autopsy report that found Fernández was nearly two times over the legal alcohol limit and had cocaine metabolizing in his bloodstream.

Rhiannon Walker is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a drinker of Sassy Cow Creamery chocolate milk, an owner of an extensive Disney VHS collection, and she might have a heart attack if Frank Ocean doesn't drop his second album.