Watch CBS News

Family Of Boating Accident Victim Files Lawsuit

KEY BISCAYNE (CBSMiami) - The family of a young man who was killed in a boating accident has filed a lawsuit against the boat's operator and multiple companies.

Ernesto Hernandez, 23, died Sunday,May4th when he was trying to help a boat that got stuck in the sand at Nixon Beach off Key Biscayne.

Hernandez was killed by the propellers.

That boat was allegedly operated by the South Florida radio personality DJ Laz whose name is Lazaro Mendez.

The lawsuit accuses Mendez of operating the boat carelessly and recklessly.

"It's his duty to protect the safety not only of the people on board but of the surrounding people in the water and he didn't do that," said Carlos Silva, an attorney for Hernandez's family.

Investigators are trying to determine exactly how the incident happened.

According to authorities, a number of people were trying to push a 40-foot boat off a sandbar after it became stuck.

Hernandez was not on board the stuck boat, but was on another boat when his family says someone asked Hernandez for help.

"The reason he went, because he's called. They needed help and my son, he thinks he's like a superman because he's really strong. He tried to help but he didn't know that help is going to be his life," Hernandez's mother Maricel Valdez added.

"Common sense dictates if you're stuck on a sandbar you don't have people pushing the boat behind you with the motors going and the throttle spinning where if somebody falls you could be crushed by those engines you could be sliced like this boy was. He was sliced and killed on the scene," said Silva.

Jorge Pino with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Mendez has "cooperated fully" in the investigation.

Monday, Pino stated there was no blood sample or breathalyzer taken of Lazaro Mendez, because there was no "probable cause," evidence of impairment to justify it.

Pino added that investigators observed "no blood shot eyes, slurred speech or unsteady movement" to suggest DJ Laz was impaired.

Still, they called the state attorney who said they couldn't compel a blood or breath test without probable cause. They still asked him to give a voluntary breathalyzer and he refused.

No one answered the door at DJ Laz's home when CBS4's Maggie Newland knocked. Also named in the lawsuit: Voli Spirits and Park Street Imports, a vodka company that, according to the family's lawyer was hosting a vodka boat party on Nixon Beach when Hernandez died, and Plantation Boat Mart and Marina, the company that allegedly owned or controlled the boat. Voli Vodka had no comment about the incident or the lawsuit. The other defendants named in the suit had not returned calls for comment Friday evening.

The lawsuit mentions the rapper Pitbull as a majority owner of Voli Vodka but he is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Hernandez's mother said she didn't even know her son was attending the event at Nixon beach until she got the call that something had gone wrong.

"My family, my daughters, my mom we're going to be always alone," said Valdez.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.