DJ Laz Boat Propeller Kills Ernesto Hernandez
Ernesto Hernandez Struck by Boat PropellerErnesto Hernandez, 23 of Hialeah, was among several who came to help push a large boat off a sandbar near Key Biscayne Florida on Sunday afternoon 4 May 2014. During the process, somehow he ended up behind the stern of the boat powered by four 350 horsepower Yamaha outboard motors. His torso was caught in a propeller, causing very serious injuries.
DJ Laz, stage name for Lazaro Mendez, a well known Miami Florida radio personality, was boating in Bill Baggs State Park, off Nixon Beach in Key Biscayne Florida. The area is known as No Name Harbor. He was operating his 42 foot HydraSports boat, “Off the Air”. His boat is used for sports fishing and to promote Voli Spirits / Voli Vodka.
What might be a propeller warning label can be seen at the far right, top of the transom in the photo above.
DJ Laz’s boat “Off the Air” became stuck on a sandbar as the tide went out. Some onboard and others nearby tried to push the boat off the sandbar with the outboards running. The image below comes from WSVN which also has a cell phone video taken at the same time, just moments before the accident.
Several people can be observed in the water trying to push the boat off the sandbar and the outboards can be seen to be throwing up quite a bit of water.
Shortly after the image above, Ernesto Hernandez was struck by a propeller. He was life flighted to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital and died there. Observers at a nearby shore side restaurant said Ernesto was in very bad shape when they brought him to shore but people were still trying to resuscitate him.
WSVN later reported authorities did not take blood samples from DJ Laz because he did not appear intoxicated.
Ernesto Hernandez recently graduated from the Police Academy and signed a contract as a full time personal bodyguard.
The afternoon after the accident, DJ Laz posted this statement on his Facebook page:
“I am incredibly distraught over the unfortunate accident that occurred yesterday at Nixon Beach. My family and I send our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Ernesto Hernandez; they are in our thoughts and prayers. I have and will continue to cooperate fully with investigators during this tragic time.” -Lazaro Mendez
Media reports say DJ Laz was not asked to provide a blood sample because he exhibited no signs of being intoxicated. Authorities did ask him to voluntarily blow a breathalyzer test and he refused.
Characteristics of Boat Propeller Flow in Shallow Water
Inflow and outflow to boat propellers in shallow water at slow speeds are different than those when underway in open water.
Three characteristics are especially different.
1. Squat – we will pass on the technical definitions, but when a boat is stuck on a sandbar and the outboards are pulling water under it at high velocity a downward force can be created.
2. Recirculating water – the outboard motors (four 350 hp motors in this instance) are pulling a lot of water. Some portion of that water is just going around in circles. It flows through the propeller and is drawn in a circular pattern back around to the propeller inlet side and goes through again and again. It is easier for this water to keep circling than to keep pulling in all the water needed from water in front of the propellers when the boat is at rest (stuck on the sandbar). This recirculating water may pull people from behind or beside the vessel into the front of the propeller.
3. Pooling – we created this term. When a boat is at rest and an outboard motor is pulling at lot of water, the surface of the water in front of the outboard can become depressed (a bit of a depression in the water surface in front of the propeller). This is more pronounced when a large vessel (like a houseboat) is stuck or moving slowly in reverse with the engine revved up. People floating behind the boat can almost fall down the sloped surface of the water into the propeller. The same phenomena may occur in forward with this many large outboards pulling water in (someone beside the boat might slide down the slightly sloped surface of the water into the propeller). However in this instance, it looks like they were standing on the bottom.
While no mention has been made of it so far in the news media, it is possible the operator shifted the boat from forward into reverse to try to rock the large boat off the sand bard. The four large outboards in reverse at high speed on large stuck boat would try to pull in everything and everybody behind them. Or the recirculating water in reverse might pull in people from the side of the boat to the rear of the propeller (the propeller inlet side when in reverse).
Authorities say the safe way to get unstuck off a sandbar is to wait for high tide. We concur, wait for tide to lift the vessel or call Sea Tow.
Ernesto Hernandez Funeral Arrangements
CBS Miami reported a viewing will be held at 6pm Tuesday May 6th at the Maspon’s Funeral Home. Wednesday morning May 7th, the body of Ernesto Hernandez will be taken to the Dade South Cemetery for burial.
About DJ LazDJ Laz’s real name is Lazaro Mendez. He overcame many challenges in his life. As a child his legs were deformed and he struggled to walk, he endured 17 surgeries at Jackson Memorial (same hospital Ernesto Hernandez was taken to), a friend murdered his wife, his mother, and himself with a gun he stole from DJ Laz, DJ Laz lived through a divorce, and had a boat stolen by human traffickers.
Beyond his tremendous success on the radio, some high points of his life include interviewing President Obama and recovering his stolen boat. He tracked his previous 33 foot Hydra Sport boat by GPS, flew to Mexico, and met the boat at the docks with the police.
DJ Laz’s promotional run on the water on the day of the accident had been previously announced on Twitter and Facebook to tens of thousands of fans. His Facebook announcement posted March 4th included a photo of his boat and said:
Today come out to Nixxon Sandbar and party with @volispirits @plantationboatmart @wetsounds free stuff see u today Miami
The post was followed by several hashtags including party, boats, voli, pitbull, and one we censored.
Law enforcement authorities were in the area at the time of the accident. They were staged nearby due to the area being a known weekend party area.DJ Laz’s Facebook page indicates they have another large on water event involving the boat planned for Mothers Day Weekend 2014. It will be interesting to see how that one comes off (will it be modified, postphoned, called off, go on with no changes, or maybe be turned into a fund raiser for the Hernandez family?). The same event is being promoted elsewhere under a less family appropriate title, The Strippers Ball.
Looking at his huge online social media presence, he seems like someone you might encounter on the original Miami Vice show with Don Johnson (a Cuban-American DJ/Rapper, larger than life personality, some bling, some tattoos, lots of pretty cars, pretty girls, music, expensive boats, and some alcohol.)
On the flip side, his web presence includes many photos of him as a family man and interacting with his young daughter.
Interesting Photo of DJ Laz’s Boat
Back in 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard shot a Public Service Announcement for boat propeller safety. In that short video, a young man was closely behind a big nice boat with an inflatable tube. A party was going on onboard. The boat had several outboard motors, the engines were started, and the young man was sucked into the propeller. The PSA was titled, Don’t Wreck Your Summer, and was quickly pulled from the air due to industry objections. The image below of DJ Laz’s boat during the 2013 Miami Boat Show is highly reminiscent of that PSA video.
While we do not encourage everybody to sue everybody, Hector Hernandez’s surviving family members have almost innumerable potential defendants. Among them are:
- DJ Laz
- His morning radio show (MMMG)
- Lazaro Mendez (his real name)
- MMMG DJ Laz (The Real DJ Laz) (his Facebook site that announced the party and invited people)
- Mendez Media Group (MMG)
- the boat manufacturer (HydraSports)
- the outboard motor manufacturer (Yamaha)
- the boat dealer (we suspect the dealer is Plantation Boat Mart in the Florida Keys as DJ Laz has worked special events there, they sell HydraSports, and DJ Laz often lists their twitter address in his posts about on water activities.)
- Voli Spirits / Voli Vodka
- Pitbull (Armando Christian Perez)- another Miami personality and a major owner of Viola Spirits
- Whoever organized the Voli party on Nixon beach
Please note we are not saying all or any of the entities listed above are responsible for the accident. We are only saying they are potential litigants. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) is investigating the accident.
Yamaha has already been observed openly promoting alcohol and boating in several situations outside the U.S. We posted several of their ads showing unsafe boating practices in February 2014. Some of those ads include the alcohol.
We also wonder if Yamaha may have cut DJ Laz a deal since the outboards would be used on such a high profile boat and garner so much exposure. Such actions would prove Yamaha knew the intended uses of the boat.
- 5 May 2014 tweet from NBCNews6 confirming DJ Laz has contacted a lawyer following the accident on Sunday.
- 6 May 2014 the Sun Sentinel reports Ernesto Hernandez’s family has retained a lawyer and is requesting witnesses and those with photos or videos of the boat near the time of the accident to contact them (but no contact information was provided).
- 9 May 2014 Local 10 (a tv station) reported the family of Ernesto Hernandez had filed a lawsuit against DJ Laz regarding the boating accident. A news conference regarding the suit was being held Friday afternoon. Local 10 did not name the attorney or the venue (court system).
- 9 May 2014 NBC6 reported the suit was filed in Miami Dade County Court and Ernesto Hernadez’s is being represented by Carlos Silva. Mr. Silva appears to focus on high profile negligence cases and looks like a heavy hitter (very capable lawyer).
- 9 May 2014 we posted coverage of the suit, Valdez v. Mendez, et al.
- 13 May 2014 we posted coverage of DJ Laz’s social media accounts being deleted.
- 13 May 2014 we posted an in-depth look at the Legal Aspects of Social Media & Boat Propeller Accidents using the DJ Laz accident as an example.
We extend our condolences to Ernesto Hernandez’s family and thank the many news and media outlets that covered this accident. The more exposure these accidents receive, the more people will be aware of these hazardous situations. We hope it is a long time before we see another propeller fatality from pushing boats off sandbars in the southeast U.S.