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Tiger Woods ‘may have been asleep at the wheel’ moments before his SUV crashed off side of California road, forensic experts say
- Forensic experts say evidence points to Tiger Woods being ‘asleep at the wheel’
- Woods suffered serious injuries to his right leg after car crash on Tuesday
- Luxury SUV veered into median and off road in Rancho Palos Verdes on Tuesday
- Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office believed the cause to be an accident
- Experts told USA TODAY that Woods may not have been ‘alert’ at time of crash
- They cite fact that car kept driving straight through median and did not turn
Tiger Woods may have been asleep at the wheel moments before the 45-year-old golf legend’s SUV veered over the median and off the roadway before it hit a tree and rolled over, according to forensic experts.
Experts who looked into clues at the crash site raised the possibility that Woods was not paying attention to the road when his vehicle crossed into the opposite lane while driving along a steep Southern California roadway.
The analysts cited the fact that Woods’ car kept driving straight through the median instead of staying on the road and curving right, according to USA TODAY.
DailyMail.com has sought comment from Woods’ agent and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Woods’ Genesis SV80 luxury SUV is seen after sustaining damage in the crash in Rancho Palos Verdes, California on Tuesday
Tiger Woods (pictured above in Orlando on December 19) may have been asleep at the wheel in the moments leading up to Tuesday’s car crash in Southern California, according to forensic experts
The 15-time major champion shattered his leg when he lost control of his car, which rolled several hundred feet in an accident police said he was ‘lucky to survive.’.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Woods was not drunk and was driving alone in good weather when the SUV hit a raised median, went across oncoming lanes and rolled several times.
The crash injured his right leg, requiring surgery.
Forensic experts said that Woods applied the brake late in the crash sequence, right at the time of impact, which likely explains why he suffered multiple broken bones in his right leg.
A law enforcement officer looks over a damaged vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods on Tuesday
Workers watch as a crane is used to lift a vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods in the Rancho Palos Verdes section of Los Angeles on Tuesday
‘To me, this is like a classic case of falling asleep behind the wheel, because the road curves and his vehicle goes straight,’ said Jonathan Cherney, a former police detective who provides car accident analysis as an expert witness in court cases.
Cherney visited the crash site in person and examined the available evidence.
‘It’s a drift off the road, almost like he was either unconscious, suffering from a medical episode or fell asleep and didn’t wake up until he was off the road and that’s where the brake application came in,’ Cherney said.
After the crash, Villanueva, the sheriff, told reporters that there were no skid marks on the road that would indicate a hard brake, though that could have been because Woods’ vehicle had anti-lock brakes, according to accident expert Felix Lee.
Lee told USA TODAY he was struck by the fact that the vehicle kept driving straight as the road curved, directly entering the median.
‘My feeling is that speed wasn’t that much of an issue,’ Lee said.
‘It was just some kind of inattention that caused the curb strike.’
The crash happened on the border of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes in LA on Tuesday morning. Woods was on his way to the Rolling Hills Country Club when he crashed
After Woods’ vehicle left its lane and crossed into the median, it drove about 400ft before stopping.
Cherney said there was no indication of ‘any steering input’ that is commonly seen whenever a driver tries to avoid an accident.
Rami Hashish, a forensic analyst at the National Biomechanics Institute, said this suggests a ‘very delayed response’ by Woods.
‘It was suggesting he wasn’t paying attention at all,’ according to Hashish.
Hashish said he believes that Woods would have sustained far more serious injuries – and likely would have died – had he been traveling any faster on the road where the speed limit is 45mph.
‘You can walk away with a broken leg from 45 to 50 mph,’ Hashish said.
LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said on Wednesday the golfer was neither drunk nor impaired
‘If you’re hitting 60, 65 and you’re hitting a stationary object, your likelihood of death increases exponentially.’
Had Woods’ vehicle been traveling at 80mph, ‘he wouldn’t be having an open fracture in this leg,’ Hashish said.
‘He’d be dead.’
Cherney has disputed the sheriff’s assertion that Woods’ vehicle rolled over ‘several times.’
He said this was unlikely due to the weight of the vehicle – a Genesis SV80 luxury SUV. The car weighs 6,000 pounds – which is considerably more than the standard 3,500 pounds of other passenger cars.
Cheney believes the heavy weight of the vehicle explains why it sustained so much damage, and not the number of times it allegedly rolled over.
‘I consider a rollover one full revolution, not just falling onto the side,’ Cherney said.
‘I don’t think that vehicle experienced as many revolutions or complete rolls as they are portraying.’
Cherney also said that ‘you don’t see any tire marks again until he actually goes off the road.
‘And when he goes off the road, his left-side tires and right-side tires both struck it and you can see he just went right over the curb,’ he said.
‘To me, that’s also indicative of him not applying the brakes, and he went ahead and continued off the side the road until he hit the brush.
‘Probably at some point when he hit the curb, he regained consciousness and decided to apply the brakes.’
Investigators are pictured photographing the badly-damaged SUV, with greenery still attached to it
Villanueva told reporters he did not know the speed at which Woods’ car was traveling at the time of the accident, though the sheriff did not rule out the possibility that speed and inattentiveness were factors.
‘This stretch of road is challenging, and if you’re not paying attention, you can see what happens,’ Villanueva said on Wednesday.
The sheriff called the crash ‘purely an accident’ and that there was no evidence of impairment caused by alcohol, medication, or other substances.
When a sheriff’s deputy arrived on the scene on Tuesday, Woods was ‘lucid,’ though experts say this does not disprove their theory that he was not alert in the moments leading up to the accident.
Forensic experts were surprised that Villanueva told reporters that the crash was not an accident before he had reviewed the SUV’s ‘black box’ computer.
Investigators who are looking into the rollover crash will rely heavily on data stored in the Genesis SUV he was driving to figure out what happened.
The 2021 GV80, made by the Hyundai luxury brand, is likely to have a newer version of event data recorders nicknamed ‘black boxes’ after more sophisticated recorders in airplanes.
They store a treasure trove of data for authorities to review.
There aren’t any US regulations requiring the boxes, but the government does require the recorders to store 15 data points including speed before impact and whether brake and gas pedals were pressed.
The regulations don’t cover new partially automated systems that can control speed, brake, and steer cars on freeways, and they don’t address cameras and radar used in those systems.
In 2017, Woods was arrested after he was found by Florida police asleep behind the wheel of his car. Toxicology reports indicated several substances in his blood, including drugs used to treat a sleeping disorder
But some vehicles store some of the new systems’ data.
‘There’s no real accident unless it’s a true medical emergency,’ Cherney said.
‘There’s always some level of negligence, whether it’s simple negligence like looking down at your phone or changing the radio station that starts the whole collision sequence. … So when the sheriff is saying this is just an accident, I don’t know how in the world you can state that so early in the game without completing an in-depth thorough investigation and reconstruction analysis.’
As to whether Woods was under the influence of alcohol or some other substance, that is a question that should be referred to the hospital, according to the sheriff.
‘We’ll assume that in the course of the treatment they draw blood and they have to do that obviously because he has to go into surgery and all that,’ he said.
‘But that’s going to require a search warrant from our part to go into those details.’
DailyMail.com has sought comment from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where Woods is currently being treated.
The sheriff’s deputy, Graciela Medrano, told USA TODAY that Villanueva’s assessment that it was an accident was ‘preliminary.’
LASD provided a statement to USA TODAY which read: ‘The traffic collision investigation is ongoing, and traffic investigators have not made any conclusions as to the cause of the collision.’
In January, Woods underwent surgery on his back – the fifth such operation that he has had on his back since the start of his playing career.
In 2017, he was arrested in Florida after police found him asleep at the wheel of his car.
A toxicology report indicated that the presence of several medications in his blood, including Vicodin, Dilaudid, Xanax, Ambien, and THC.
Woods has stated in the past that he has had difficult sleeping and has used Ambien to treat the issue.
He subsequently checked into rehab for painkiller addiction.
Woods was involved in another high-profile crash in 2009 when he hit a fire hydrant after being chased from his home by then-wife Elin Nordegren, which led him to admit to multiple affairs and drug use.
Tiger Woods tweeted he was ‘touched’ in first public comments since car crash after fellow golfers wore red and black in his honor
Tommy Fleetwood, left, and Cameron Champ wear clothing honoring Tiger Woods during the final round of the Workday Championship golf tournament on Sunday
Rory McIlroy, left, and Patrick Reed were two of several players wearing a red top and black pants as a tribute to Tiger Woods
Credential-holding spectators wear red tops and black pants as a tribute to Tiger Woods as they watch during the final round of the World Golf Championships
Less than a week after undergoing surgery, Woods has found something to aid in his recovery: The support of fellow PGA Tour players.
With so many players wearing Woods’ trademark red and black colors on Sunday all throughout golf, it served as the moving get-well card that it was intended to be.
‘It is hard to explain how touching today was when I turned on the tv and saw all the red shirts,’ Woods wrote in a post to Twitter on Sunday.
‘To every golfer and every fan, you are truly helping me get through this tough time.’
Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed were among the golfers wearing red shirts and black pants in the final round of the World Golf Championships – – Workday Championship at The Concession in Bradenton, Florida.
Phil Mickelson wore the color combination during the final round of the Champions Tour event at Tucson, Arizona.
Annika Sorenstam, who is playing her first LPGA Tour tournament in 13 years at the Gainbridge LPGA in Orlando, also wore red and black.
The gesture extended to the Puerto Rico Championship, where the grounds crew wore Woods’ colors.
Woods remains hospitalized in the Los Angeles area, recovering from surgery to treat multiple fractures on his right leg. The 45-year-old has 82 career PGA victories, including 15 majors.
Collin Morikawa, who won this weekend’s WGC event, was not wearing the color scheme, but he tried.
His clothing sponsor tried to overnight him a red shirt with his sponsor’s logos but it did not arrive in time because of weather delays.
The entire maintenance staff at the Puerto Rico Open wore red and black in honor of Woods
Bryson DeChambeau tweeted a picture of a golf ball with the name ‘Tiger’ and a red line on it
PGA Tour tweeted photos of golfers Cameron Champ, right, and Tommy Fleetwood wearing red and black with Nike hats in honor of Tiger Woods
Instead, Morikawa used his post-round interview on live television to thank Woods for being an inspiration on the way to carving out a spot on the PGA Tour.
He choked up as he spoke the words.
‘Tiger means everything to me, and yes he had the crash, and thankfully he’s all right and hopefully he has a quick and great recovery,’ Morikawa said on the NBC broadcast.
‘But I don’t think we say “thank you” enough. So, I’m going to say thank you to Tiger. Sometimes you lose people too early. Kobe (Bryant). I lost my grandpa about a month ago. … So, thank you guys.’
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