MIAMI (AP) — Jose Fernandez escaped from Cuba by boat on his fourth try as a teenager, and when his mother fell into the Yucatan Channel during the journey, he jumped in and pulled her out.
Fernandez's heroic backstory made his death early Sunday that much more heart-wrenching. The charismatic Miami Marlins ace was killed in a boating accident at age 24.
Fernandez and two other people died when their 32-foot vessel slammed into a jetty off Miami Beach, authorities said.
Authorities didn't know the time of the crash. The capsized boat was found shortly after 3 a.m.
"All I can do is scream in disbelief," said Hall of Famer Tony Perez, a Marlins executive and native of Cuba. "Jose won the love of all. I feel as if I had lost a son."
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," 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."
The Marlins' game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves was canceled. The Braves, along with several other teams, quickly offered condolences.
Fernandez was on a vessel that hit a jetty near a harbor entrance, said Lorenzo Veloz of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The overturned boat remained in the water for several hours, its engines partially submerged as its nose pointed skyward, as debris from the crash was scattered over some of the large jagged rocks.
Veloz described the condition of the boat as "horrible."
City of Miami Fire-Rescue workers were seen carrying bodies, draped and on stretchers, at the Coast Guard station after sunrise. They were taken to the medical examiner's office. Two bodies were found under the vessel and a third was found on the jetty.
The names of the other two individuals were withheld pending notification of relatives, the Coast Guard said.
"It does appear that speed was involved due to the impact and the severity of it," Veloz said. "It does appear to be that they were coming at full speed when they encountered the jetty, and the accident happened."
Fernandez died from trauma and not drowning, Veloz said, who added there was no immediate indication that alcohol or drugs were a cause in the crash. He said none of the three victims wore a life jacket.
The boat was owned by a friend of Fernandez.
The Miami Marlins have announced the death of ace right-hander Jose Fernandez.
The U.S. Coast Guard says Fernandez was one of three people killed in a boat crash off Miami Beach early Sunday.
The Marlins did not immediately release details, other than releasing a statement confirming the death of one of the top pitchers in baseball.
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."
The Marlins' game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves has been cancelled.