Deputy: 'Very fortunate that [Tiger] Woods was able to come out of this alive'
LOMITA, Calif. — Shortly after 7 a.m on Tuesday morning, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy arrived at the scene of a one-car rollover crash on a notoriously treacherous stretch of road near Rancho Palos Verdes.
Deputy Carlos Gonzalez approached the overturned SUV and found the driver “lucid and calm” despite being trapped inside the mangled vehicle.
“What’s your name?” Gonzalez asked.
“Tiger,” the man responded.
Tiger Woods is “very fortunate ... to come out of this alive,” Gonzalez said Tuesday afternoon at a news conference outside the sheriff’s office in Lomita. Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel had to use tools to extricate Woods from the vehicle through the windshield.
Woods was transported to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center with injuries to both legs that were described as serious but “non-life-threatening." By late Tuesday night, his team said in a statement that he was "awake, responsive and recovering at the hospital" after undergoing a "long surgical procedure on his lower right leg and ankle."
As part of the official statement on Woods' Twitter account, Dr. Aniish Mahajan, the hospital's interim CEO, said that the golfer suffered "comminuted open fractures" affecting both the tibia and fibula bones in his right leg. That suggests the bones were broken into more than two pieces and had broken through the skin.
Mahajan said Woods had a rod placed in his tibia and screws and pins inserted into his foot and ankle during surgery to stabilize them. Damage to the muscle and soft-tissue of the leg also required "a surgical release of the covering of the muscles to relieve pressure due to swelling.”
LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva indicated there was "no evidence of impairment" when observing Woods at the scene. Officers saw no signs that Woods was under the influence of narcotics or pain medicine, according to Villanueva, nor did they smell alcohol on his breath.
Of greater concern to officers was the speed Woods may have been traveling as the PGA legend drove from his hotel to a nearby golf course. As Woods drove downhill on a steep, curvy section of Hawthorne Boulevard, his vehicle struck the median, obliterated a “Welcome to Rolling Hills Estates” sign and crossed over into the opposite lane of traffic. It rolled a few times before coming to a stop in a gully several hundred feet away.
“Obviously that indicates he was going at a relatively greater speed than normal,” Villanueva said.
“The front end [of the vehicle] was totally destroyed. The bumper, everything was totally destroyed. The air bags deployed, all of that. However, thankfully the interior was more or less intact, which kind of gave him the cushion to survive what otherwise would have been a fatal crash.”
Gonzalez described the stretch of road Woods crashed on as a "hot spot for traffic collisions." While the speed limit is 45 miles per hour, Gonzalez said he had seen motorists careen downhill at 80 miles per hour.
Asked if this was the worst accident he had seen in that location, Gonzalez said he had responded to fatal crashes there.
"People see a nice stretch of road," he said, "and maybe they're not watching their speedometer or maybe they're in a hurry."
Woods was in the Los Angeles area as the host of a golf tournament at Riviera Country Club that concluded Sunday. A recent back surgery prevented him from playing in the event, but Woods told CBS announcer Jim Nantz that he hoped to be healthy enough to play in the Masters in April.
The accident took place near Rancho Pales Verdes, an upscale community south of Los Angeles. On Monday, Woods was in the Rancho Pales Verdes area for a golfing commitment.
As a result of Woods’ stature, the crash quickly became a global news story. Dozens of reporters descended upon the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lomita station for Tuesday’s news conference, News vans and other vehicles parked up and down Narbonne Avenue, ignoring red curbs and no parking signs.
At 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, the sound of circling helicopters still drowned out conversation in the tree-lined neighborhood where Woods crashed. Curious residents drove by in Range Rovers and Lexuses, but there was little left to see besides yellow caution tape blocking off the street and TV reporters doing their live hits.
Among the onlookers was Palos Verdes Estates resident Ric Palma, an avid cyclist who had come by on his afternoon ride through the hills. Palma hadn't thought anything of the helicopter noise that morning. Only after his buddies texted him and he received a notification on his phone did he realize Woods had crashed miles from his home.
"It's unfortunate, but I'm not surprised an accident took place here," Palma told Yahoo Sports. "Going downhill, it can be dangerous. You can gain speed super fast. There's no banking on the road either, so if you're making a right turn and you're going too fast, it can lead to something bad."
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