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Sheriff's deputy says Tiger Woods was calm, but unaware 'how gravely he was injured' in crash

LA County Sheriff's Deputy Carlos Gonzalez said the legendary golfer remained calm at the scene of a one-car wreck despite serious injuries to his right leg.
/ Source: TODAY

The first deputy on the scene of the one-car crash involving Tiger Woods said on TODAY that the legendary golfer was calm, but did not seem aware of how seriously he was injured before he was rushed to a hospital following Tuesday's wreck.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Carlos Gonzalez spoke to Craig Melvin on Wednesday about what he saw after Woods' SUV rolled over multiple times on a California highway.

Gonzalez said he arrived on the scene six minutes after deputies received a 911 call. He said he found Woods conscious in his wrecked vehicle about 40 feet from the roadway.

"I don't think he was aware of how gravely he was injured at the time. It could be a mixture of adrenaline, it could've been shock," Gonzalez told TODAY. "Again it was very quick, the moment that I arrived from the moment that he rolled over, so I don't know if he had time to fully assess his injuries."

Woods was "responsive and recovering in his hospital room," his representatives wrote in a statement on his Twitter account early Wednesday morning.

The superstar golfer suffered "significant orthopaedic injuries" to his lower right leg that were treated with emergency surgery in which a rod was inserted into his tibia, according to Anish Mahajan, the chief medical officer and interim CEO at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

Screws and pins were also used to treat injuries to his foot and ankle, Mahajan said in the statement.

The statement by Mahajan said Woods suffered "comminuted open fractures affecting the upper and lower portions of the tibia and fibula bones." He also had "trauma to the muscle and soft tissue of the leg requiring the surgical release of the covering of the muscles to relieve pressure due to swelling," Mahajan said.

NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres said on TODAY Wednesday that those injuries could have potentially led to the loss of Woods' leg if first responders and doctors had not acted quickly.

"The big concern was amputation because if he doesn't get that (relief of the muscle pressure) done quickly — by quickly I mean within an hour or so — he could be looking at an amputation of that leg," Torres said.

Torres also said that, reading the statement, it was clear the break in Woods' leg was severe.

"Comminuted basically means that that bone was broken in multiple parts, it was not just a clean fracture. He had multiple fractures, so when they go in surgically, they have to repair all those pieces, piece them all back together, make sure it's stable," Torres said.

Woods, 45, was injured in a one-car crash at 7:12 a.m. PST on Tuesday when his Genesis GV80 rolled over on the border of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes, California, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said. The cause of the crash is being investigated, and Gonzalez said he did not see signs of impairment at the crash scene.

"At the scene, we're looking for evidence of intoxication like if there's an odor of an alcoholic beverage or there's an open container or prescription medication," Gonzalez said. "At this time we didn't see any evidence of impairment and anything beyond that in terms of the medical toxicology, I wouldn't be aware at this time."

The father of two was conscious when he was removed from the SUV, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said Tuesday at a news conference. Photos of the scene show the front of the vehicle destroyed, and police said they needed an axe and other tools to remove Woods from the wreck.

Gonzalez said Woods remained calm as he asked him assessment questions at the scene before determining that he needed to call the fire department to help.

"I've seen collisions that didn't look as serious where the occupants were injured much more severely," he said. "I think that's just a testament to the fact that he was wearing a seatbelt, airbags worked as intended and modern vehicles are much more safe than they ever used to be."