Lawsuit Filed Against South Florida's DJ Laz in Fatal Boating Incident
By Willard Shepard and Alexandra Leon
First published on May 9, 2014 on NBCMiami.com
The mother of a 23-year-old man killed Sunday in a horrific boating accident has sued popular South Florida radio voice DJ Laz and Miami rapper Pitbull's vodka company for negligence in her son's death.
DJ Laz was at the helm of a 40-foot pleasure boat sponsoring Voli Vodka when the boat got stuck on a sandbar, according to the suit, filed Thursday. Ernesto Hernandez got off another boat to try to help dislodge it, and was fatally injured when he was caught by its propeller.
His mother Maricel Valdez faults the negligence of DJ Laz and Voli, as well as codefendant Park Street Imports.
"I don't know how this happened, because he was my life, my only boy," she said.
Park Street declined to comment on the litigation, and Voli did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Representation for DJ Laz could not immediately be located.
Hernandez got off another boat when he saw the pleasure boat stuck on the sand bar, and he tried to help, authorities said. Hernandez had just graduated from police academy, and this was the type of thing he would do for anyone, said family members.
As Hernandez was trying to push the vessel off the sand bar, he ended up behind one of the vessel's engines, and the propeller caught his torso, authorities said. He was severely injured and was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center, where he was later pronounced dead.
"He jumped out in the water, and he pushed the boat, and he got killed by the negligence of the captain of the ship," said Valdez's lawyer Carlos Silva.
The suit he filed on behalf of Valdez claims DJ Laz tried to operate the boat without proper training or experience, failed to warn Ernesto Hernandez and failed to cut power to the boat's engine.
"He had the engines running while he was in the water trying to push the boat off the sand bar. It makes absolutely no sense," Silva said.
The suit also alleges that Voli failed to provide an adequate captain, negligently entrusted the boat to DJ Laz, failed to warn him of hazardous conditions and failed to adequately supervise him.
DJ Laz also failed to use proper equipment to remove the boat from the sandbar and failed to lighten the boat's load, the suit alleges.
Officials said last week that DJ Laz, whose real name is Lazaro Mendez, cooperated with the investigation into Valdez's death. He has also spoken to an attorney, NBC 6 learned.
The complaint identifies Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, as a spokesperson and majority owner of Voli.
DJ Laz issued a statement via Facebook last week that read: "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 fully cooperate with investigators during this time."