Tiger Woods Update: Sheriff Says Crash Investigation Is Done

Alex Villanueva, the sheriff of Los Angeles County, said that the authorities would need Woods’s permission to release the results of the investigation.,


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The investigation into Tiger Woods’s single-vehicle crash in February is finished, but the results cannot be released publicly until Woods gives permission, the Los Angeles County sheriff said in a Facebook Livestream on Wednesday.

“A cause has been determined,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said, adding: “We have all the contents of the black box. We’ve got everything completed, signed, sealed and delivered. However, we can’t release it without the permission of the people involved in the collision.”

Woods, 45, sustained severe injuries to his right leg on Feb. 23, requiring at least two operations after the S.U.V. he was driving crashed onto a hillside along a tricky stretch of road in Los Angeles County. No one but Woods, the pre-eminent figure in golf over the past quarter-century, was involved, according to the authorities.

The sheriff has maintained that the crash was an accident, saying that he and his deputies did not detect signs of impairment at the scene that day. However, he said about a week later that investigators had gotten a search warrant for the event data recorder, also known as a black box, in Woods’s S.U.V. to help clarify the cause of the crash.

“It’s still an accident,” he said Wednesday. “You have an accident, and you have deliberate acts. It’s an accident, OK. We’re reaching out to Tiger Woods to be able to release the report itself, and nothing has changed from what we know and what we learned throughout the course of the investigation. And everything we did turned out to be accurate.”

Woods’s longtime agent, Mark Steinberg, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Here is what we know as of Wednesday night.

Woods was released last month from a Los Angeles hospital where he was treated after the crash, according to a post to his Twitter account on March 16 that said he was at home.

“I will be recovering at home and working on getting stronger every day,” the Twitter post on Tuesday read.

Woods’s only known residence is in Jupiter Island, Fla., where he lives in a mansion — sometimes with his two children, custody of whom he shares with his ex-wife.

The post did not contain updates on his condition, and Steinberg, Woods’s agent, said in an email that he could not offer any further information on his client’s location or condition.

Woods was taken to Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center in Los Angeles on the day of the crash and underwent emergency surgery to repair serious injuries to his right leg.

He was transferred to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on the evening of Feb. 25.

The morning after Woods’s arrival at Cedars-Sinai, he received “follow-up procedures on his injuries,” which were deemed successful, according to a statement from Woods’s Twitter account.

Dr. Anish Mahajan, the acting chief executive of Harbor-U.C.L.A., said in a statement the night after the crash that both bones in Woods’s lower right leg, the tibia and the fibula, had been broken in multiple places and were “open fractures,” meaning the bones had pierced his skin.

Dr. Mahajan said doctors had “stabilized” the breaks by placing a rod in the tibia. He said that additional bones in Woods’s ankle and foot had also been injured and that they had been “stabilized with a combination of screws and pins.”

The statement did not describe any injuries to Woods’s left leg, though Daryl L. Osby, the Los Angeles County fire chief, had said earlier that Woods had “serious injuries” to both legs. The chief did not explain further and said he was not sure what other injuries Woods might have sustained.

Doctors not involved in Woods’s care have predicted an extremely difficult recovery from his injuries.

The warrant to inspect the black box’s data was executed on March 1 as part of a “routine procedure,” a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department said last month.

When asked why the department had not sought a warrant for blood samples from the hospital, which would indicate whether Woods had alcohol or drugs in his system, Sheriff Villanueva said in a livestream on March 3 that there was no evidence of impairment.

“Absent the evidence of impairment, you know, you’re not going to get a search warrant,” the sheriff said. “Period. It’s not getting assigned by the judge.”

Though the investigation continued, Sheriff Villanueva was quite clear at a news conference on Feb. 24 that he believed the crash was accidental. “We don’t contemplate any charges whatsoever in this crash,” he said. “This remains an accident, and an accident is not a crime.”

Drug recognition experts — police officers trained to identify people suspected of being impaired — were not dispatched to either the site of the crash or the hospital, Sheriff Villanueva added.

Although Woods appeared “lucid and calm” immediately after the accident and was able to answer questions from Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, the first emergency responder to arrive at the scene, he “had no recollection of the crash itself” when asked at the hospital, Villanueva said in a Feb. 24 appearance on CNN.

Forensic experts from across the country who are not involved in the investigation told USA Today, for an article published on March 13, that it appeared to be either a case of falling asleep at the wheel or of impaired or distracted driving.

The crash occurred on Hawthorne Boulevard near Rancho Palos Verdes, a coastal city of about 42,000 people in Los Angeles County.

According to data collected by the Sheriff’s Department, there were 13 accidents, four with injuries, from Jan. 3, 2020, to Feb. 23 of this year within a 1.35-mile stretch of Hawthorne Boulevard that includes the site where Woods crashed, according to data collected by the Sheriff’s Department.

Only one of those accidents was officially determined to have involved a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to the data, and none involved someone using a phone. Two of the 13 accidents were single-vehicle crashes, and the data indicated that neither driver in those cases had been driving under the influence.

The speed limit there is 45 miles per hour, but Deputy Gonzalez said he had sometimes seen vehicles going more than 80 miles per hour. Sheriff Villanueva said it appeared that Woods had been driving at a “greater speed than normal” on the day of the accident.

ImageWoods's borrowed S.U.V. landed on a hillside in a suburb of Los Angeles.
Woods’s borrowed S.U.V. landed on a hillside in a suburb of Los Angeles.Credit…Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Officers arrived at the scene six minutes after receiving a 911 call and found Woods trapped in an S.U.V. that had rolled over, Sheriff Villanueva said on the day of the crash.

The vehicle Woods was driving hit the median strip, traveled several hundred feet and rolled several times before stopping in the brush on the other side of the road, Sheriff Villanueva said. There were no skid or swerve marks, indicating that Woods had made no attempt to brake, the sheriff said. The bumper and the front end of the car were “destroyed,” but the interior cabin of the vehicle was “more or less intact,” he added.

There was no evidence that Woods was being followed or looking at his phone, the sheriff said at the time of the crash. Weather was also not a factor in the crash, he said. Woods was wearing his seatbelt, and airbags in the car deployed, Deputy Gonzalez said.

Woods was in Southern California to host, but not to compete in, the Genesis Invitational at the Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades section of Los Angeles the weekend before the crash. Genesis Motor is a luxury vehicle division of Hyundai. Woods was in a 2021 Genesis GV80 S.U.V., which was provided to him during the tournament; he is known for always driving himself in a courtesy car at tournaments.

Woods stayed after the weekend to do promotional work for Golf Digest and GolfTV, and when the crash happened, according to ESPN, he was on his way to a photo shoot with the N.F.L. quarterbacks Drew Brees and Justin Herbert.

Rory McIlroy, 31, in an interview on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon on March 9, said that he had spoken with Woods and that he expected him to be able to recover at home with his family soon.

“He’s doing better — and I think all of us are wishing him a speedy recovery at this point,” McIlroy said of himself and unspecified fellow golfers in the interview, which he did from the Players Championship.

Several PGA Tour players wore red shirts with black pants, a version of Woods’s signature final-round outfit, on the final day of the Workday Championship on Feb. 28. Some used Bridgestone golf balls imprinted with Woods’s usual marking, “TIGER.” And many spectators wore red shirts, hats and masks.

“It is hard to explain how touching today was when I turned on the TV and saw all the red shirts,” a statement on Woods’s Twitter account said on Sunday. “To every golfer and every fan, you are truly helping me get through this tough time.”

Annika Sorenstam, 50, wore a red top and a black skirt at an L.P.G.A. Tour event in Orlando, Fla., while the maintenance staff at the Puerto Rican Open wore red in tribute as well.

On the day of the crash, celebrities and fans alike offered prayers and words of support on social media.

Even before the wreck, it was not clear when Woods might play again or whether he would be able to pursue a record-tying sixth Masters victory this spring.

Woods was trying to recover from his fifth back operation, a microdiscectomy, which he had disclosed in January.

When he appeared on CBS on Sunday during the final round of the Genesis tournament, Woods was asked whether he would compete at the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in April. “God, I hope so,” he said. “I’ve got to get there first.”

Although Woods said last month that he expected to miss at least two tournaments, he did not publicly rule out playing in the Masters, which he last won in 2019. On Sunday, he said he was “feeling fine, a little bit stiff,” and was awaiting another magnetic resonance imaging scan to evaluate his progress.

In the meantime, he said, he was “still doing the mundane stuff that you have to do for rehab, the little things before you can start gravitating toward something a little more.”

Woods tied for 38th place in the 2020 Masters, which was played in November because of the coronavirus pandemic. Although he shot a 10 on the 12th hole during the final round, he birdied five of the final six holes.

Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Bill Pennington.

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