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Miami baseball star Fernandez responsible for deadly boat crash: report

MIAMI (Reuters) - Miami baseball star Jose Fernandez was to blame for a boat crash that killed him and two passengers last year, Florida officials said on Thursday, finding that his reckless and impaired driving led the vessel to slam into a rock jetty.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigators said Fernandez, a dominant pro baseball pitcher with the Marlins, was steering at full-throttle at the time of the early morning accident in September 2016.

In a report, the agency said the 24-year-old could have faced criminal charges of boating under the influence, manslaughter, vessel homicide and reckless operation of a vessel.

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Jose Fernandez boat crash
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Jose Fernandez boat crash

Investigators look over the overturned boat in which Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Maimi Beach.

(Joe Caveretta/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

The boat in which Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed is towed through government cut, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Miami Beach.

(Joe Caveretta/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

The overturned boat in which Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed is seen Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Maimi Beach.

(Joe Caveretta/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

Investigators look over the overturned boat in which Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Maimi Beach.

(Joe Caveretta/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)

A memorial at Marlins Park to honor Marlins player Jose Fernandez who died in a boat crash on September 25, 2016 in Miami, Florida.

(Photo by Johnny Louis/WireImage)

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"Fernandez operated (the boat) with his normal faculties impaired, in a reckless manner, at an extremely high rate of speed, in the darkness of night, in an area with known navigational hazards," the report said.

"Fernandez's impairment and manner of operation caused the accident which resulted in his death and the death of his occupants," it added.

Emilio Jesus Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25, were also killed in the crash.

A hero in Miami's Cuban community, Fernandez was a two-time Major League Baseball all-star and won National League Rookie of the Year in 2013. The Marlins drafted Fernandez in the first round in 2011.

He was born and raised in Cuba and tried three times to defect to the United States before arriving at age 15 with his mother, surviving harrowing conditions at sea.

16 PHOTOS
Tributes around sports for Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez
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Tributes around sports for Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez
Sep 26, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Hats of the Miami Marlins lay on the pitchers mound after the game to honor teammate starting pitcher Jose Fernandez at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
A fan signs the memorial mural as he mourns the death due to a boating accident of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, outside Marlins Park prior to a game against the New York Mets in Miami September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity
Sep 26, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins teammates gather around the mound to honor Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez before the game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 26: A jersey hangs in the New York Mets dugout in honor of late Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez before the game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on September 26, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: The Tampa Bay Rays hang a jersey in their dugout honoring Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins during a game against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on September 26, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Miami Marlins' Adam Conley, pitches in the first inning wearing a number 16 shirt in honor to pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died on a boat accident Sunday morning, against the New York Mets on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016 at Marlins Park in Miami, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 26: A fan holds a sign in honor of late Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez before the game between the Miami Marlins and the New York Mets at Marlins Park on September 26, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox reacts during a moment of silence in honor of deceased Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez before a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 25, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Fan's stand for a moment of silences for Miami Marlins Pitcher Jose Fernandez prior to a game between the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns on September 25, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Fernandez was killed in a boating accident early this morning. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: The Chicago Cubs place a jersey in their dugout in honor of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez who died early this morning on September 25, 2016 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: A memorial to honor Marlins player Jose Fernandez who died in a boat crash at Marlins Park on September 25, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Johnny Louis/WireImage)
Sep 25, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly reacts at a press conference announcing the death of starting pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident. The game between the Atlanta Braves and Marlins was cancelled at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; A memorial of flowers and photos are placed outside a gate at Marlins Park in honor of Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez who was killed in a boating accident. The game between the Atlanta Braves and Marlins was cancelled. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; A moment of silence is observed for Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez pictured on the video board who was killed Sunday morning in a boating accident before the game between the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins relief pitcher Kyle Barraclough kneels at the mound in honor of teammate starting pitcher Jose Fernandez who was killed in a boating accident. The game between the Marlins and the Atlanta Braves was cancelled at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
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The report included a "probable" seating chart showing Fernandez behind the wheel of a 32-foot boat traveling at almost 66 mph (106 km) when it collided with a rock jetty near Miami Beach. The vessel rolled sideways, tossing its three passengers overboard.

Rescue divers found the pitcher's body in the water under the overturned boat, pinned between a rock and the boat's awning. He was identified by a tattoo of a baseball surrounded by gears, the report said.

In October, an autopsy and toxicology report found that Fernandez was legally drunk and had cocaine in his body at the time of the crash.

Ralph Fernandez, an attorney for the pitcher's family, could not immediately be reached for comment. He told Reuters in October that Fernandez was not driving and called the cocaine found in his system "completely out of character."

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Bernadette Baum)

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