Deputy 1st on scene describes responding to Tiger Woods crash in Palos Verdes

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The first deputy to arrive at the scene when an SUV driven by legendary golfer Tiger Woods overturned Tuesday in Palos Verdes shared what it was like to respond to the crash, saying he did what any good law enforcement officer would do.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy Carlos Gonzalez told KTLA Wednesday he arrived at the crash site on Hawthorne Boulevard to find a vehicle on its side, about 40 feet off the side of the road. There was a hole in the windshield.

He ran to the car and squeezed his upper body through the windshield, finding a man sitting in the driver’s seat, still buckled in, the deputy said.

“At that time I didn’t recognize who he was because it was dark in the car and my mind’s not there, my mind’s on his well-being,” Gonzalez said.

The deputy could see Woods was awake, looking back at him, and he tried to gauge his condition.

“I asked him, ‘What’s your name?’ And he tells me it’s Tiger.”

That’s when Gonzalez realized it was the golf champion.

“I have a job to do so I didn’t say anything. But I’m trying to gauge his mental state,” Gonzalez said, recalling asking questions to keep Woods talking as he looked over the car and driver to assess the situation.

He noticed some blood on Woods’s face, but no other obvious injuries. The passenger compartment of the vehicle looked intact.

Woods had shattered tibia and fibula bones on his right leg in multiple locations. Doctors had to stabilize the tibia with a rod and use a combination of screws and pins in his ankle and foot, according to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center chief medical officer Anish Mahajan.

“I decided that it’s the best course is just to keep him calm, to try to minimize the shock that he’s in and that way we can we can buy some time for the Fire Department to come pull him out,” Gonzalez said.

The deputy wasn’t sure how long it took for firefighters to arrive. But “it felt like an eternity,” he said.

“You’re with someone who’s gone through something horrific, and you’re waiting for someone to help you to pull this person out. And at that time, you feel almost helpless,” Gonzalez said.

Though Woods had suffered serious leg injuries, Gonzalez said the athlete didn’t seem to be aware of the pain.

“I noticed that he has to be in shock because he doesn’t seem to be registering any pain. He almost seems as if he was not even aware that he had been in a crash,” the deputy recalled.

But Woods was responding to the deputy’s questions, a good sign.

“At one point, I think he reached out his hand, and I was able to to grab it,” Gonzalez said. “I just wanted to make sure that he didn’t start focusing on what he’d been through, you know ’cause that’s that’s a real danger once it goes into shock.”

Los Angeles County Fire Department crews pried off  the windshield and pulled Woods out of the vehicle.

The car was headed north on the curved, downhill stretch of the road when it hit a sign in the center median, crossed into the opposing lane of traffic, hit a curb, slammed into a tree and rolled over several times, according to the Sheriff’s Department. The airbags deployed, likely saving his life, officials said.

Gonzalez said he did what he was trained to do in the situation, and it wouldn’t have gone differently if it was anyone else.

“I don’t think I did anything special at all,” the deputy said. “I did what any good law enforcement officer, deputy sheriff, would do in that situation.”

“I handled the call as if it were any person. I handled it as if it were my own parents or my neighbor,” he added. “I don’t give anyone preferential treatment just because of who they are. I try to do the best that I do every day, and I think every deputy and law enforcement officer does the same thing.”

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