Moments after a muscular 23-year-old named Ernesto Hernandez was sucked into his boat's propellers and killed off Key Biscayne, DJ Laz was interviewed by a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer. Although the death occurred during a vodka-sponsored event at a notoriously drunken sandbar, the officer says Mendez showed no indication of "impairment due to alcohol or a controlled substance."
So says a close-out memo released by prosecutors this morning along with news that the famed radio personality won't face any criminal charges over Hernandez's death. Thirteen other witnesses backed up the FWCC officer's take, testifying under oath that Laz was sober and that the death was simply a tragic mistake.
"This is a tragedy, that is undeniable," Laz says in a statement. "But we appreciate the State Attorneys Office reviewing the clear evidence and not compounding the tragedy by filing criminal charges where non are warranted or appropriate. Though there are no winners here today, justice was served"
Hernandez's death came on May 4, 2014, at a boating party sponsored by Voli Vodka at Nixon Sandbar, a regular party-spot for weekend boaters just off Key Biscayne. The recent police academy graduate was among a crowd trying to push Laz's boat off the sandbar when he was sucked into the engines and killed.
The prosecutor's decision that Laz isn't criminally liable for the death comes after a year-long investigation that involved interviews with dozens of witnesses and bystanders. Although many told conflicting tales, the memo makes it clear they were almost all consistent on one point: Laz wasn't drinking while piloting his boat.
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The 13 witnesses who told prosecutors he was only drinking non-alcoholic beverages all came from Laz's boat; all the witnesses from Hernandez's boat testified that they did see him drinking something, but couldn't tell what it was. The only outlier was one witness from Hernandez's boat who told prosecutors she was certain she'd seen alcohol in Laz's hand, but in her first interviews with police, she didn't mention seeing any booze.
Add it up? "There was insufficient evidence to prove that he was under the influence of alcohol," prosecutors write.
Prosecutors also heard conflicting stories about whether Laz or his crew warned Hernandez and the other men in the water that the engines were about to rev. Laz's witnesses all say warnings were yelled, while Hernandez's associates say there weren't. But prosecutors found video evidence supporting Laz's version of events.
Laz already settled a civil lawsuit from Hernandez's family out of court; a separate suit against Voli Vodka remains open. New Times call to Hernandez's family's attorneys hasn't been returned this morning.