Alcohol use examined in Indian crash


March 24, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The boating tragedy that claimed the lives of Cleveland Indians pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews is being investigated as a possible alcohol-related accident, according to investigator for Florida's Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

Olin, 27, was killed instantly when the 18-foot bass boat driven by Crews smashed into a dock on Little Lake Nellie in Clermont, Fla., on Monday night. Crews, 31, died yesterday morning of massive head injuries, and Indians pitcher Bob Ojeda is in serious but stable condition after surgery to repair extensive lacerations to his forehead and scalp.

Investigators still are trying to reconstruct the circumstances that led to the accident, which occurred during a day-off get-together at a lakeside ranch owned by Crews. One empty beer can was found and an ice chest containing alcoholic beverages was recovered from the boat, but Lt. Bruce Cooper of the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission said investigators have not determined whether alcohol consumption played a role in the accident.

"We do not know if they were impaired or intoxicated. . . . We are still looking into that," Cooper said. "The only piece of evidence we have is an ice chest with beer and a bottle of vodka -- mostly unconsumed."

Divers searched yesterday for any other evidence that might help determine exactly how the crash occurred. Blood alcohol samples were taken from the victims, but Cooper said the results probably will not be available for several days and a complete investigation could take several weeks.

Indians strength and conditioning coach Fernando Montes, who was a guest at the party and one of the first to arrive at the accident, assured club officials that the players were not under the influence of alcohol when they boarded the boat.

The accident occurred at 7:50 p.m. Monday in an area about 30 miles north of the Indians' Winter Haven camp. Crews had invited some teammates and their families to a cookout on the team's only day off of the exhibition season. The three players apparently were on a night fishing trip when the boat slammed into the unlighted dock.

Cooper would not speculate on the speed the boat was traveling, but said it sheared through three 4-foot-by-4-foot pilings before stopping 50 to 75 feet beyond the dock.

The 18-foot Fiberglas bass boat had a 150-horsepower motor and a top speed of 60 mph. After the accident, police found it at near full throttle. The speedometer had stopped at 39 mph.

Cooper also said that an aft light, required by Florida law for night cruising, was not operational, but indicated that it probably was not a factor in the crash.

The dock was described by Cooper as a relatively new structure that extended 185 feet into the lake and was not equipped with lights or reflectors. The boat apparently hit it broadside, but Cooper said Crews would have missed the pier entirely if he had steered 10 feet to the left.

Olin was pronounced dead at the scene, and his body was transported to the local coroner's office. Crews was taken by helicopter to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where he never regained consciousness.

"Our feeling when he first arrived was that he had a non-survivable brain injury," attending neurosurgeon Dr. Bruce Brunson said at a news conference yesterday. Crews was on life support until he was pronounced dead at 5:40 a.m.

Ojeda was taken to South Lake Memorial Hospital in Clermont, where he will remain for several days. He was removed from intensive care yesterday and was interviewed by investigators.

Olin and Crews became the first active major-league players to be killed in an accident since New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson died in a plane crash in 1979. It was the second serious accident involving members of a major-league team in less than a year. Several members of the California

Angels were injured May 21, when their bus jumped a guardrail on the New Jersey Turnpike en route to Baltimore.

The Indians were scheduled to face the Orioles in an exhibition game at Chain O' Lakes Park in Winter Haven yesterday, but that game and their game today were canceled. Players, coaches and club officials came to the ballpark early yesterday for an emotional team meeting, then were sent home to be with their families.

hTC "This is a terrible tragedy," said Indians general manager John Hart. "We're all somewhat in a state of shock. We're grieving the loss of two very special players. Steve has been a member of this organization throughout his career. Tim was a player we sought out this winter, and he certainly fit the chemistry of what we were trying to do. Steve and Tim both have three young children, and their well-being is paramount on our minds at this time."

Olin is survived by his wife, Patti, a 3-year-old daughter, Alexa, and 6-month-old twins, Garrett and Kaylee. Crews is survived by his wife, Laurie, and children Tricia, 9, Shawn, 4, and Travis, 2.

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