The rollover car crash that seriously injured Tiger Woods outside Los Angeles on Tuesday was an accident and investigators won’t pursue any charges against the golf great, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Wednesday.
“We don’t contemplate any charges whatsoever in this crash,” Villanueva said in a Facebook Live chat. “This remains an accident. An accident is not a crime. They do happen, unfortunately.”
As of overnight Wednesday, Woods was “awake, responsive, and recovering” in the hospital from major surgery, according to a statement on his Twitter account.
The 45-year-old golf legend was driving shortly after 7 a.m. PT Tuesday in Rancho Palos Verdes when his SUV crossed a median and veered across two lanes of road before hitting a curb, hitting a tree and landing on its side in the brush, Villanueva said Tuesday.
Woods remained conscious and calm but sustained serious leg injuries. Villanueva told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Wednesday that Woods made no comments at the scene regarding the cause of the crash, and when investigators asked him about it at the hospital, “he had no recollection of the crash itself.”
Woods underwent a lengthy emergency surgery on his lower right leg and ankle at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, the statement said. The leg fractures were “comminuted,” meaning the bone was broken into more than two parts, and “open,” meaning the broken bone was exposed to open air, creating risk of an infection, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anish Mahajan said in the statement.
Orthopedic trauma specialists inserted a rod into his tibia to stabilize both the tibia and fibula bones, stabilized the foot and ankle bones with a combination of screws and pins, and relieved pressure to the muscle and soft tissue of his leg by surgically releasing the covering of the muscle, Mahajan said.
“His right leg was basically crushed,” Daniel Rapaport, the Tiger Woods correspondent for Golf Digest, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday.
The decision to surgically release the covering of the muscle suggests Woods may have been at risk of “compartment syndrome,” an issue common after crush injuries when pressure builds up to such a dangerous level that it can cut off blood flow.
“These surgeons likely believed that if they did not perform one of those procedures to release that pressure, they actually were worried that he could lose the limb. Amputation might have been necessary,” Dr. Jeremy Faust, emergency physician Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told CNN on Wednesday.
Having seen the damage at the crash site, Villanueva said it was “nothing short of a miracle” that Woods was alive. Woods was wearing a seat belt, which may have saved his life.
“We have seen accidents with far less obvious (damage) that are fatalities,” Villanueva told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Tuesday.
The crash represents a devastating setback to Woods’ hopes of returning to golf glory and comes just a month after his fifth career back surgery. And in a life highlighted by his mastery of the golf course, it’s the roadways that have proved most destructive: the 2009 car crash that led to the dissolution of his personal life and the 2017 DUI arrest that stemmed from an addiction to painkillers.