Miami Marlins star Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident early on Sunday in Florida, the US Coast Guard said. He was 24 years of age.
Fernandez was one of the most prominent pitchers in Major League Baseball and was considered a hero to Miami’s Cuban community.
He was born and raised in Cuba before trying three times to defect to the United States in hope of beginning a new life.
— MLB (@MLB) September 25, 2016
He finally reached the country when he was 15 with his mother after surviving harrowing conditions at sea.
He was killed along with two others when the 32-foot boat he was in collided with a rocky jetty off Miami Beach, the Coast Guard said.
The bodies of Fernandez and the two other men, aged 24 and 27, were found on and underneath the boat, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Lorenzo Veloz said at a news conference.
The agency is investigating the cause of the accident.
The identities of the two other victims were not released.
It is thought that the speed at which the boat was travelling played a role in the crash. Alcohol and drugs were ruled out as being a factor, Veloz said.
Never had a chance to compete against Jose Fernandez, but he looked to be the ultimate competitor. Will miss the passion he brought#RIPJose
— Josh Donaldson (@BringerOfRain20) September 26, 2016
The Marlins, which drafted the pitcher in the first round of the 2011 draft, cancelled their Sunday home game against the Atlanta Braves but dozens of mourners still gathered at a makeshift memorial organised for Fernandez near the entrance to Marlins Park.
In honour of Fernandez, many wore his No. 16 jersey and brought flowers, teddy bears and pictures of the All Star pitcher.
Cuba’s state-controlled media didn’t mention Fernandez’s death on Sunday, which is its standard procedure for those who leave the island-nation secretly, even though its communist government reestablished diplomatic ties with the United States last year.
So sorry to hear the devastating news about young @Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez-Heartbreaking-Thoughts & prayers to his family & friends.
— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) September 26, 2016
The right-hander, who made his major league debut in April 2013, was a two-time All-Star selection and won the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
Fernandez, with his talent, good looks and charisma on the field, was in many ways seen as a hero to Miami’s growing Cuban community.