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 suburb of Los Angeles. (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 suburb of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

LA sheriff calls Tiger Woods crash ‘purely an accident’

‘He was not drunk,’ sheriff Alex Villanueva told the press after surveying the crash site

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 did not see any evidence that 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, and he underwent a “long surgical procedure,” according to a post on the golfer’s Twitter account.

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.

Woods was arrested on a DUI charge in 2017 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 was taking. 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.

Woods was driving his courtesy vehicle from the Genesis Invitational when he crashed. Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who was the 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 crashes are common.

car crashEntertainment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

CVRD offices on Ingram Street will remain closed for another 14 weeks after flooding last month. (File photo)
CVRD headquarters closed for another three and a half months

Building significantly damaged during water leak

Victoria police are asking for help locating high-risk missing man Derek Whittaker, last seen in Victoria April 12. (Courtesy of VicPD)
MISSING: Police searching for Derek Whittaker, last seen in Victoria

Whittaker believed to be driving 1994 red Volkswagen Golf

The IIO is investigating after a police dog bit a man during a traffic stop near Ladysmith on April 17, 2021. (Black Press Media stock photo)
IIO investigating after police dog bites man near Ladysmith

RCMP dog bit man during traffic stop on Friday, April 17

Possible COVID-19 exposures were reported at Maple Bay Elementary between April 12 and 15. (Google Maps screenshot)
Possible COVID-19 exposure reported at Maple Bay Elementary

Exposures may have occurred between April 12 and 15

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and vacation bookings are being increased in B.C. (B.C. government)
Out-of-region B.C. vacation bookings, RV ferry reservations to be refused

B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
BREAKING: Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
Island Health seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

VIHA says Ladysmith-area Chakalaka Bar and Grill also violating water and sewer regulations

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. to open up AstraZeneca vaccines for all people 40+, set up clinics in hot spots

A total of 13 neighbourhoods and communities will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine

Carver Ken Sheen had almost finished work on a large cowboy carving commissioned by the City of Williams Lake to replace the original overlooking the Stampede Grounds when fire broke out Friday, April 18 at his property between Williams Lake and Quesnel. (Pine River Carving Facebook photos)
Cow boss statue destined for Williams Lake Stampede Grounds goes up in flames

Carver Ken Sheen lost the statue, all his tools and his shop in the blaze

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains. (Hansard TV)
B.C. moves to protect employee pay for COVID-19 vaccination

Most won’t need to take time off work, labour minister says

Most Read