Woods, wife silent on accident

probe continues

November 29, 2009|By Susan Jacobson | Tribune Newspapers

WINDERMERE, Fla. — — Amid a flurry of questions about his actions early Friday when he crashed an SUV at his Isleworth mansion, Tiger Woods postponed an interview Saturday with Florida Highway Patrol troopers, but the golfer has agreed to be interviewed today, the agency said.

The interview was supposed to take place after 3 p.m. Saturday but was postponed shortly beforehand by Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg of IMG. Troopers were asked to return Sunday, said FHP spokeswoman Sgt. Kim Montes. Woods' wife, Elin Nordegren Woods, Friday told troopers seeking to interview Woods that he was sleeping. They agreed to return the next day.

Meanwhile, the Orange County Sheriff's Office has provided the 911 calls in the case to the highway patrol, the investigating agency. They will be released after a trooper determines whether they are needed as evidence - possibly as soon as today.

Woods, the world's No. 1-ranked golfer, suffered facial cuts when he crashed into a fire hydrant and a neighbor's tree while leaving his mansion in southwest Orange County about 2:25 a.m. Friday, said Windermere police, who initially responded to the call. There has been widespread speculation in the news media and among bloggers on what precipitated the accident, but no official account has emerged.

The 2009 Cadillac Escalade sustained between $5,000 and $8,000 in damage, troopers said. The left and right rear side passenger windows were broken out, but the FHP hasn't determined how that happened, Montes said.

On Friday, Windermere officials said Elin Nordegren Woods told them she had smashed a window of the SUV with a golf club and pulled her husband out. Windermere police said that when they arrived, Woods was lying on the ground, dazed and bleeding from the lips and with blood in his mouth. The crash knocked Woods, 33, unconscious for about six minutes, according to a call report compiled by the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

The sheriff's office, which does not investigate auto accidents but took the 911 calls, on Saturday issued a statement saying the information released by Windermere "may, in fact, be counterproductive to the ongoing investigation into this incident." Windermere Police Chief Daniel Saylor did not return repeated phone calls.

Woods is not obligated to speak to investigators - only to provide his driver's license, registration and proof of insurance, Montes said. He was not given a Breathalyzer test, nor was his blood or urine tested. Troopers need probable cause that someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs to demand such tests, and they had none, Montes said. Such probable cause could include finding liquor bottles in a car or smelling alcohol on someone's breath.

Kissimmee defense lawyer Don Waggoner said Saturday that troopers must arrest someone before they test for alcohol or drug intoxication. They cannot draw blood unless they can't get a breath or urine sample, and they can't take those unless they suspect intoxication, he said.

"If there's no reason for them to believe he's under the influence of alcohol, then they have no probable cause," Waggoner said. "People have accidents all the time and they aren't under the influence of alcohol."

After investigators determine what caused the crash, they could issue a ticket or do nothing. Woods was hospitalized for less than 12 hours afterward at Health Central Hospital in Ocoee.

"We consider this a minor crash even though his injuries were serious," Montes said.

Woods is scheduled to host and play in the Chevron World Challenge starting Thursday in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The tournament benefits his foundation.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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