Man killed by boat propeller was helping DJ Laz - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Man killed by boat propeller was helping DJ Laz

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A photo of men trying to push boat A photo of men trying to push boat
A still image from video taken of the stuck boat. A still image from video taken of the stuck boat.
DJ Laz DJ Laz
Fire rescue responds Fire rescue responds

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (WSVN) -- A day on the water ended in tragedy for one South Florida man who was trying to help local celebrity DJ Laz who was on a vessel that got stuck on a sand bar.

According to police, 23-year-old Ernesto Hernandez was fatally struck by the 40-foot boat's spinning propellers on Nixon Island. Cell video showed the boat's large engines shooting water in the air but not moving. Hernandez was not originally with the boat's group but was one of three people who went to help DJ Laz, whose real name is Lazaro Mendez.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the victim ended up in the water at No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne, around 7 p.m. Sunday. "Early indications are that he was trying to push a vessel off of the sandbar," said FWC spokesperson Jorge Pino. "Apparently he got caught up in the propellers of that vessel, causing severe damage to his entire torso."

According to Hernandez's family, they were not surprised to hear that their loved one tried to help. "He was a selfless, giving person," Hernandez's cousin said. "He was there for anybody. Even if he didn't meet you, he'd take his shirt off his back and help you out. He was somebody that was truly dependable, you know, wasn't surprised he was trying to help somebody."

Hernandez was a bodyguard and recently passed the police academy and had hopes of becoming an officer. "His career was exploding right now, getting his life started, just a baby," said the cousin. "Just a little kid. That's not right."

On Sunday, DJ Laz' Twitter account tweeted out "Today come out to Nixon Sandbar and party..." The FWC confirmed that Mendez was at the controls of the boat at some point.

Customers at a nearby restaurant observed as authorities and rescue crews surrounded the area after the accident. "The whole restaurant was watching, everybody jumped up from their tables and nobody was eating," said witness Sean Raee. "It was a somber moment for quite a while."

Raee said he immediately realized this was a very serious boating accident. "He looked like he had fallen over the boat or drowned or something, and they were working on him," he said.

"I saw the rescue [crews] come in, rescue came in, dropped off the guy, the paramedics came, got him, put him on the helicopter and took him away," said witness George Morfa.

The victim was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital where he later died. "This is somebody getting hurt, you know. It's not a good feeling," said Morfa.

Mendez released a statement on his Facebook page Monday that read, "I am incredibly distraught over the unfortunate accident that occurred yesterday at Nixon Beach. My family and i sent our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Ernesto Hernandez; they are in our thoughts and prayers. I have and will continue to cooperating fully with the investigators during this tragic time."

Authorities are trying to determine how the man got in the water and how he managed to get caught up in the propellers. "This is a very popular area where boaters come every weekend to have fun, enjoy themselves and drink and party," said Pino. "Unfortunately, every now and then we have an incident such as this."

FWC previously reported that blood was drawn from Mendez but authorities have since clarified and said that they did not draw blood because there was not enough probable cause to do so. "We want to make sure that the operator was not intoxicated at the time that he was operating the vessel, as well as the young man who assisted," said one FWC official. "We have to get all that information now."

The incident remains under investigation. It is unclear whether alcohol was involved or who, if anyone, will face charges.

Mendez could still face criminal neglect charges in the future.

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