Cleveland Indian pitcher Tim Crews, a former Dodger, was legally drunk when the boat he was driving rammed into a dock on March 22, killing him and teammate Steve Olin and injuring pitcher Bob Ojeda, investigators said Tuesday.
Crews had a blood alcohol level of 0.14 compared to the legal limit in Florida of 0.10, Col. Bob Edwards of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission said at a news conference in Orlando. Olin's blood alcohol content was 0.02 and Ojeda's was 0.006, well under the legal limit.
Chief investigator Bruce Cooper said that if Crews had lived, he might have been charged with manslaughter, but otherwise Cooper didn't want to consider "what if" questions.
Thomas Hegert, medical examiner for Florida's Orange County, said an 0.14 level was equivalent to six or seven beers for a person of Crew's stature (6 feet and 195 pounds), "but the effects vary considerably in each person."
Jim Ellis, director of the BOAT-U.S. Foundation for Boating Safety in Alexandria, Va., said: "The fact that the operator of the vessel was intoxicated makes it a classic boating accident. We find that 30% to 50% of all boating fatalities have some alcohol involvement. The real shame of it is that (Crews) was intoxicated and the others weren't. In that situation, he should have turned over the operation of the boat to one of the others."
Said Indian Manager Mike Hargrove: "Those were good, honest, solid men. (The Crews finding) doesn't alter that fact one way or the other. Those guys are still dead. The hurt is still there. And I think enough is enough."
Olin and Ojeda had attended a barbecue at Crews' home on Little Lake Nellie in Clermont, Fla., on the only off-day during the Indians' spring training schedule at nearby Winter Haven. Cooper said none of those attending the barbecue thought that Crews appeared intoxicated when the three decided to go fishing in Crews' 18-foot bass boat.
Ojeda told investigators, Cooper said, that "they had made several passes around the lake and were returning to the launch area" near the Crews' home to pick up two other friends when the boat struck the dock at about 7:30 p.m., in darkness.
Cooper said that while the exact speed of the boat could not be determined, the investigation indicated it was "planing," or riding high in the water, meaning it was traveling at least 25 m.p.h. The boat carried a 150-horsepower engine with a top speed of 65 m.p.h. Investigators initially said the throttle was wide open. Cooper said Tuesday that the boat traveled another 145 feet after hitting the dock and breaking three of the pilings and cross braces.
Olin, 27, the Indians' top relief pitcher, died of head injuries at the scene. Crews, 31, died the next morning of head and lung injuries. Ojeda, 35, had surgery for severe head cuts and was released from the hospital last Friday. The former Dodger left-hander is not expected to rejoin the Indians and resume his pursuit of a spot in their rotation for at least two weeks.
Indian spokesman Bob DiBiasio said the findings brought a "feeling of finality" to the tragedy but that "the findings of these (alcohol) levels is insignificant compared to the loss" suffered by the families of the players.
Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president, said he was shocked by the Crews finding "for a couple reasons."
"The first is that during Tim's six years with us, I had no awareness at any time that he even drank," Claire said. "There was never a problem or incident. The second is that it was my understanding that he was given several transfusions after the accident, so I don't know how they determined his alcohol level. Then again, that's not my area of expertise."
Cooper said Tuesday that blood scrapings from the boat were used in the Crews tests. He said that several unopened beer cans and a nearly full bottle of vodka were found on the boat, along with one empty beer can.
There have been several alcohol-related accidents involving baseball players or personalities in recent years. Lenny Dykstra and Darren Daulton of the Philadelphia Phillies were seriously injured in a 1991 accident that occurred while Dykstra was driving drunk. Billy Martin was killed while a passenger in a drunk-driving accident. Eight teams, including the Dodgers, have banned alcohol from their clubhouses.
"There's been vast improvement," Don Newcombe of the Dodgers' community services department said of alcohol abuse in baseball. "You can't eradicate it, but you hope to educate, to make players realize how short-lived their careers are and how much money they have at stake."
Bud Selig, president of the Milwaukee Brewers and chairman of baseball's ruling executive council, said: "I really can't comment (on the Crews finding) because I don't have any firsthand knowledge of the details. If you're asking if baseball is sensitive to alcohol-related problems, if it's something we take seriously, the answer is yes, of course. We take it as seriously as we do any other substance issue."