LA sheriff calls Tiger Woods crash 'purely an accident'

A crane is used to lift a vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A crane is used to lift a vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu

Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu

The Los Angeles County sheriff says the rollover that seriously injured Tiger Woods was “purely an accident” on a downhill section of road known for crashes

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles County sheriff on Wednesday characterized the crash that seriously injured Tiger Woods as "purely an accident" and appeared to rule out any potential criminal charges even as authorities were still investigating.

Deputies saw no evidence the golf star was impaired by drugs or alcohol after Tuesday's rollover wreck on a downhill stretch of road known for crashes, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.

“He was not drunk,” Villanueva said during a livestreamed social media event. “We can throw that one out.”

Woods, who had checked into a clinic in 2017 for help dealing with prescription medication, was driving alone through coastal Los Angeles suburbs when his SUV struck a raised median, crossed into oncoming lanes and flipped several times. The crash caused "significant" injuries to his right leg that required surgery, according to a post on the golfer's Twitter account.

Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who was first to arrive at the crash, patrols the road and said he sometimes catches people topping 80 mph (129 kph) in the downhill, 45-mph zone and that wrecks are common.

Justin King, a personal injury attorney in California, said that if investigators prove the road is unsafe and contributed to Woods’ crash and others, the municipality that controls it could be held liable. The wreck happened on the border between the communities of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes, and the county supervisor who represents the area has requested a safety review.

Meanwhile, Villanueva said investigators may seek search warrants for a blood sample to definitively rule out drugs and alcohol. Detectives also could apply for search warrants for Woods' cellphone to see if he was driving distracted, as well as the vehicle's event data recorder, or “black box,” which would give information about how fast he was going.

Joe Giacalone, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a retired New York police sergeant, said it was “premature” for Villanueva to determine the crash was an accident just a day later.

“The blood test could give us a whole other insight,” Giacalone said, noting that some drugs are not necessarily detectable by observation. "Because it’s Tiger Woods, people are going to demand answers. You have to dot your I’s and cross your T’s.”

Crash investigations typically include interviews of first responders and bystanders as well as inspections of the road and the vehicle, including photographing and measuring the scene and checking to see if the vehicle had defects or malfunctions, according to William Peppard, a retired Bergen County, New Jersey, police detective who has served as a crash investigator.

Peppard said in typical cases with no immediate indications the driver was impaired, detectives might not seek blood samples if the crash did not injure anyone else or damage property.

"Take the celebrity out of it — it’s a matter of resources and time,” he said.

In 2017, Woods was arrested on a DUI charge when Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of his car parked awkwardly on the side of the road, with its engine still running, two flat tires and a blinker flashing.

Woods said he had an unexpected reaction to pain medication. He eventually pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving. Three weeks after the arrest, he entered a clinic for help dealing with prescription medication and a sleep disorder.

The crash this week was the latest setback for Woods, who at times has looked unstoppable with his 15 major championships and record-tying 82 victories on the PGA Tour. He is among the world's most recognizable sports figures, and at 45, with a reduced schedule from nine previous surgeries, remains golf’s biggest draw.

Injuries, however, have been a big part of his narrative dating to his epic victory in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, where he won with shredded knee ligaments and two stress fractures in his left leg.

In 2009, his personal life imploded when he was caught having multiple extramarital affairs and crashed his vehicle into a fire hydrant and tree. He went two years without winning.

After returning to No. 1 in the world in 2013, when he won five times and was PGA Tour player of the year for the 11th time, he had his first back surgery in 2014. He played only 16 times over the next four years.

But he always made it back. Even after four back surgeries, he won the Masters in April 2019 for the fifth time, which ranks among the great comebacks in the sport.

Woods had a fifth back surgery, a microdiscectomy, on Dec. 23, just three days after he played the PNC Championship with his son Charlie, now 12.

He was in Los Angeles over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club. Monday and Tuesday had been set aside for him to give golf tips to celebrities on Discovery-owned GOLFTV.

___

Ferguson reported from Orlando, Florida.

A law enforcement officer looks over a damaged vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A law enforcement officer looks over a damaged vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu

Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu

A vehicle rests on its side after a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A vehicle rests on its side after a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

FILE - Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the first hole during the first round of the PNC Championship golf tournament in Orlando, Fla., in this Dec. 19, 2020, file photo. Woods was injured Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in a vehicle rollover in Los Angeles County and had to be extricated from the vehicle with the “jaws of life” tools, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
FILE - Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the first hole during the first round of the PNC Championship golf tournament in Orlando, Fla., in this Dec. 19, 2020, file photo. Woods was injured Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in a vehicle rollover in Los Angeles County and had to be extricated from the vehicle with the “jaws of life” tools, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack

Credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack

FILE - Tiger Woods looks on during the trophy ceremony on the practice green after the final round of the Genesis Invitational golf tournament at Riviera Country Club, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. Woods was injured Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in a vehicle rollover in Los Angeles County and had to be extricated from the vehicle with the “jaws of life” tools, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.(AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
FILE - Tiger Woods looks on during the trophy ceremony on the practice green after the final round of the Genesis Invitational golf tournament at Riviera Country Club, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. Woods was injured Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in a vehicle rollover in Los Angeles County and had to be extricated from the vehicle with the “jaws of life” tools, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.(AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

Credit: Ryan Kang

Credit: Ryan Kang

A vehicle rests on its side after a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
A vehicle rests on its side after a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Credit: Mark J. Terrill

Credit: Mark J. Terrill

A runaway vehicle sign is posted on a section of Hawthorne Blvd near the site of a car crash involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
A runaway vehicle sign is posted on a section of Hawthorne Blvd near the site of a car crash involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Credit: Ashley Landis

Credit: Ashley Landis

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Carlos Gonzalez speaks Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, during a news conference at the Lomita sheriff's station in Lomita, Calif., about the Tiger Woods crash. Gonzalez said the road is a trouble spot for traffic accidents and speed, he's seen fatal collisions there. He said Woods is lucky to be alive. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Carlos Gonzalez speaks Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, during a news conference at the Lomita sheriff's station in Lomita, Calif., about the Tiger Woods crash. Gonzalez said the road is a trouble spot for traffic accidents and speed, he's seen fatal collisions there. He said Woods is lucky to be alive. (AP Photo/Stefanie Dazio)

Credit: Stefanie Dazio

Credit: Stefanie Dazio

A worker moves debris after a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A worker moves debris after a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

In this aerial image take from video provided by KABC-TV video, a vehicle rest on its side after a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods along a road in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. Woods had to be extricated from the vehicle with the "jaws of life" tools, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a statement. Woods was taken to the hospital with unspecified injuries. The vehicle sustained major damage, the sheriff's department said. (KABC-TV via AP)
In this aerial image take from video provided by KABC-TV video, a vehicle rest on its side after a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods along a road in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. Woods had to be extricated from the vehicle with the "jaws of life" tools, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a statement. Woods was taken to the hospital with unspecified injuries. The vehicle sustained major damage, the sheriff's department said. (KABC-TV via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

Credit: Uncredited

A law enforcement officer looks over a damaged vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
A law enforcement officer looks over a damaged vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles. Woods suffered leg injuries in the one-car accident and was undergoing surgery, authorities and his manager said. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu

Credit: Ringo H.W. Chiu

An ambulance leaves Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in Torrance, Calif. Golfer Tiger Woods was hospitalized and underwent surgery at the hospital following a car accident on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
An ambulance leaves Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in Torrance, Calif. Golfer Tiger Woods was hospitalized and underwent surgery at the hospital following a car accident on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Credit: Ashley Landis

Credit: Ashley Landis

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