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Sports

Fan describes meeting José Fernández moments before his death

The Marlins baseball pitcher was in good spirits, drinking tequila with friends barely half an hour before his fatal boating accident.
Univision News Logo
2 Oct 2016 – 05:24 PM EDT
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In this photo taken at 2:37 a.m. Sunday, Jose Fernandez poses at a bar shortly before his fatal boat trip. Left to right: Emilio Macias, Jose Fernandez, Paola Loor and Eduardo Rivero. Crédito: Univision

It was only a brief encounter between a fan and her idol, but it was the last one that Marlins baseball ace José Fernández would have with a stranger.

Paola Loor, 32, is still shocked by the thought that only a few minutes after meeting Fernández at a dockside bar, and watching him leave on his boat, he was dead.

Fernández and two friends with him were drinking tequila but in no way appeared to be drunk, and were in good spirits, several witnesses told Univision News.

“It was nice. He was really friendly, really funny,” she said. “He wasn’t upset at all,” she added, countering some media reports that he was distressed by an incident earlier in the evening, possibly after an argument with his girlfriend.

The three young men died in the early hours of Sunday morning after Fernández's 32-foot boat crashed into jetty rocks at the entrance to the port of Miami, less than five miles from the bar.

FL

Miami

MIAMI

Miami Beach

Marlins Stadium

American

Social Bar

Accident

site

3 km

2 mi

In the last known image of José Fernández, the pitcher was photographed at American Social at 2:37 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25.

American

Social Bar

Port of Miami

Fisher

Island

Government Cut

Miami Beach

Accident

site

S

N

The boat was traveling in a southerly direction

Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández and two other people died after crashing into rocks south of Miami Beach.

FL

Miami

MIAMI

Miami Beach

Marlins Stadium

American

Social Bar

Accident

site

3 km

2 mi

In the last known image of José Fernández, the pitcher was photographed at American Social at 2:37 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25.

American Social Bar

Port of Miami

Fisher

Island

Government Cut

Miami Beach

Accident

site

S

N

The boat was traveling in a southerly direction

Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández and two other people died after crashing into rocks south of Miami Beach.

The boat was traveling in a southerly direction

FL

Miami Beach

Miami

N

Government Cut

S

Port of Miami

American

Social Bar

Accident

site

Fisher

Island

In the last known image of José Fernández, the pitcher was photographed at American Social at 2:37 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25.

Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández and two other people died after crashing into rocks south of Miami Beach.

MIAMI

Miami Beach

Marlins Stadium

The boat was traveling in a southerly direction

FL

American

Social Bar

Miami

Accident

site

3 km

Miami Beach

2 mi

N

Port of Miami

Government Cut

S

American

Social Bar

Accident

site

Fisher

Island

In the last known image of José Fernández, the pitcher was photographed at American Social at 2:37 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25.

32 feet

The sport boat, a Sea Vee vessel, had a maximum speed of 60 mph.

Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández and two other people died after crashing into rocks south of Miami Beach.

Source: Agencies | UNIVISION

Fernández, 24, was one of the rising stars in Major League Baseball, a Cuban American pitcher with an electric fastball, a winning smile and a larger than life personality.

Known to family and friends by his nickname ‘Delfin’ (Dolphin), he was also a passionate boater who enjoyed deep sea fishing.

Loor, an Ecuadoran American financial analyst, was out late with her roommate at American Social Bar & Kitchen on the Miami River when Fernandez sat down at the next table with his two friends, Eduardo Rivero, 25, and Emilio Macias, 27.

A fan of Fernández, Loor already had his autograph on her Marlins baseball cap, and often went to see the team play.

She couldn’t resist the opportunity to greet her hero. “I went over and said: ‘I’m sorry, I don’t want to interrupt you guys. I’m sure you get a lot of this.’”

Fernández replied, “Wait, wait, I don’t speak English.” Loor instantly switched to Spanish. “He just started to make conversation,” she said.

Loor told the Fernández she was from Ecuador and the pitcher talked about a visit he made to the coastal city of Guayaquil.

There was a bottle of tequila on the table, witnesses told Univision. How much of the bottle was consumed, and by whom, is not clear, though security camera footage inside the bar may reveal that to investigators.

Loor and Fernández chatted for a bit before the pitcher announced he was leaving and invited the girls to take a photo outside where his boat, the Kaught Looking, was docked.

The group snapped two photos, the last one at 2.37 am. They chatted for another 10-15 minutes, Loor estimated. “We talked about baseball. I spoke with Emilio for a while,” she said.

Then Fernández and his friends left on the boat. They did not invite Loor and her friend to join them.

Loor saw the boat heading off down the river as she went back inside the bar but could not see who was driving.

Loor reckons Fernández and his friends were in the bar no longer than an hour, all the time behaving in a relaxed and normal manner.

At one point the men were joined by two women. Loor believes one was the pitcher's girlfriend. “They were only there for five minutes,” she said.

Before saying goodbye Fernández asked the women how they were getting home. “He asked us who was driving. ‘Are you okay to drive?’” Loor recalled Fernández saying. “I said, ‘We’re fine, we took Uber,’” she added.

Her parting words to him were: “Good luck in the game tomorrow.”

Fernández was due to pitch on Monday evening, which was likely going to be his last game of the season. He thanked her before jumping on the boat with his friends and heading down river to the open sea.

At about 3:20 a.m. a Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue patrol boat received word of a possible boating accident. Ten minutes later, the U.S. Coast discovered the boat wreck on the rocks just south of Miami Beach.

Cargando Video...
Reconstructing the boat trip that led to Jose Fernandez's death

Loor says she is haunted by the image of the three men.

"Jose, Emilio and Eddie were happy that day and were really nice," she said. "Every time I think about that day, my heart sinks because I still can't believe they are gone; I can't begin to imagine what their families are going through. My heart goes out to them and I pray God gives them strength and peace to withstand this heartbreaking moment."

The accident is under investigation. The boat appeared to have been traveling at speed, authorities said. All three men were found dead at the scene. There were no signs of drugs or alcohol present at the crash site.

The Miami-Dade County medical examiner has not yet released toxicology results that might determine if Fernández or the other two victims were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Surveillance camera footage showing Fernández at the bar was turned over to authorities investigating the deaths of the three men, sources told Univision. It not known how much detail the footage contains.

American Social confirmed Fernández was there that evening but declined to discuss what he ordered.

Cargando Video...
Miami says goodbye to José Fernández (1992-2016)
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