Tiger Woods likely won't face charges after Sheriff Villanueva calls car crash 'purely an accident'

ByMarc Cota-Robles, John Gregory, Sid Garcia, and ABC7.com staff KABC logo
Thursday, February 25, 2021
No charges expected against Tiger Woods in SoCal car crash
Tiger Woods is not expected to face any criminal charges stemming from the crash in Rancho Palos Verdes, according to L.A. County Sheriff Sheriff Villanueva.

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. (KABC) -- Tiger Woods is not expected to face any criminal charges stemming from the rollover crash in Rancho Palos Verdes that left him with significant injuries, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Wednesday.

While the cause of the accident is being investigated, Villanueva called it an accident and said there were no indications that Woods was impaired in any way.

"He was not drunk," Villanueva said Wednesday on Instagram Live. "We can throw that one out."

At most, the investigation could lead to a misdemeanor charge if it's determined Woods was on his cellphone or distracted in some other way, the sheriff added. Investigators have not yet pulled a "black box" from the damaged SUV to determine how fast Woods was traveling when the crash occurred.

Woods remained in the hospital Wednesday after suffering significant injuries to his right leg and undergoing surgery.

The crash happened on the border of Rolling Hills Estates around 7:12 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Details about what led up the crash were not released, but authorities say the SUV was traveling northbound on Hawthorne Boulevard when it crashed at Blackhorse Road.

The 45-year-old golf star was the sole occupant of the SUV, and no other vehicles were believed to be involved in the crash. He was pulled from the wreckage by Los Angeles County firefighters and paramedics.

The crash caused "significant" injuries all down his right leg that featured rods, pins and screws during what was described as a "long surgical procedure" at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Anish Mahajan, the chief medical officer, said Woods shattered tibia and fibula bones on his right leg in multiple locations. Those were stabilized by a rod in the tibia. He said a combination of screws and pins were used to stabilize additional injuries in the ankle and foot.

A statement on his Twitter account said he was awake, responsive and recovering.

Tiger Woods was driving through a sweeping, downhill stretch of road through coastal suburbs of Los Angeles when his SUV struck a sign, crossed over a raised median and two oncoming lanes before it toppled down an embankment, coming to a halt on its side.

The stretch of Hawthorne Boulevard where the crash occurred is described as a common site for accidents, with cars often speeding and losing control on the downhill slope.

Woods crashed first into a sign that welcomes visitors to Rolling Hills Estates in the center median. His vehicle then crossed over lanes on the other side of the road, hit another sign and a tree before rolling over into the brush, officials said.

"Oh, you can be going fast, absolutely. You can be flying down this hill -- especially when there's no traffic," Rancho Palos Verdes resident Cara Combataladee told ABC7. Asked what she thought when she heard the news, she said: "I think, thank God no one else was hurt. I mean, considering he hopped the median and went to the other side. It's a miracle. It's a miracle he's alive and that nobody else was hurt."

The sheriff's deputy who was first on scene Tuesday morning said he has responded to many crashes in that area, including some that were fatal. The speed limit is 45 mph, but he said he has clocked other vehicles going 80.

Watch: Los Angeles County officials provide update on Tiger Woods crash

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Deputy Carlos Gonzalez said he arrived on scene and found Woods trapped in the driver's seat. He seemed "calm and lucid" despite his substantial injuries.

"I asked him what his name was. He told me his name was Tiger and that moment I immediately recognized him," Gonzalez said.

Woods was wearing his seatbelt and the airbag had deployed.

He was not able to stand on his own, but was placed onto a backboard by paramedics.

While the exterior of the vehicle was significantly damaged, the interior remained mostly intact.

"That gave him the cushion to survive what otherwise would've been a fatal crash," county fire chief Daryl Osby said.

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AIR7 HD was over the scene of the accident, showing the car on its side with the front end heavily damaged. Air bags appeared to be deployed, and luggage was also seen nearby.

The wreckage appeared to be just off the side of a road on a hillside. There was a second crash when a vehicle that had apparently stopped to help Woods got hit, said Christopher Thomas, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. That wreck was very minor, and no one was hurt.

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According to Capt. James Power from the sheriff's department, the jaws of life were not used to rescue Woods, as previously reported. First responders used tools - a Halligan tool and ax- to open the windshield and extricate him, officials said.

The crash was reported by a neighbor at 7:12 a.m. Sheriff's deputies were on the scene by 7:18 a.m. and firefighters were called in at 7:22 a.m. and arrived at 7:28 a.m.

"We hear accidents very often, and a lot of times you hear tires screeching and the kind of crash and bang. This morning, we didn't hear any tires screeching, just a loud noise... I heard a click, a thump and kind of the bushes," said neighborhood resident Keith Cole.

While his injuries were described as substantial, they were not considered life-threatening, county fire officials said. Paramedics determined they did not need to transport him to the nearest hospital for immediate life-saving measures but instead decided it was more appropriate given his injuries to bring him to the nearest trauma center, Harbor UCLA, Osby said.

Woods was in Los Angeles over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, where he presented the trophy. He was to spend Monday and Tuesday filming with Discovery-owned GOLFTV, with whom he has an endorsement contract. One tweet on Monday showed him in a cart smiling with David Spade.

The vehicle Woods was driving was a silver Hyundai Genesis SUV with a logo of the Genesis Invitational on the side. Woods was photographed standing next to a similar vehicle, if not the same one, two days earlier, in an Instagram post from Genesis USA.

According to Golf Digest, also owned by Discovery, the TV shoot was for on-course lessons to celebrities, such as Spade and retired basketball star Dwyane Wade. He did not play. Woods was believed to be headed to play golf and do a photo shoot Tuesday with NFL quarterbacks Drew Brees and Justin Herbert, a source tells Eyewitness News.

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The 15-time major champion last played Dec. 20 in the PNC Championship with his 11-year-old son, Charlie. He had a fifth surgery on his back, a microdiscectomy, two days before Christmas and gave no indication when he would return. The Masters is April 8-11 and when asked if he would be there, Woods replied, "God, I hope so."

3rd car investigation for Tiger Woods

This is the third time Woods has been involved in a car investigation. The most notorious was the early morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree near his home in Florida. That was the start of shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with multiple women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorships, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi and did not return to golf for five months.

In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road. He was arrested on a DUI charge and said later he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and checked into a clinic to get help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder.

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The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.