Members of the media stand outside Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in Torrance, Calif. Golfer Tiger Woods was hospitalized and underwent surgery at the hospital following a car accident on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Members of the media stand outside Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in Torrance, Calif. Golfer Tiger Woods was hospitalized and underwent surgery at the hospital following a car accident on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Tiger Woods ‘in good spirits’ after follow-up procedures for leg injuries

LA firefighters recount relying on axe, luck to free Woods from crash

With short, sure strokes of a flathead axe, firefighter Cole Gomoll methodically chopped along the edge of the SUV’s broken windshield as golf icon Tiger Woods — tangled up in his seatbelt and covered in a sheet to avoid shards of glass — waited in shock inside the mangled wreck.

When Gomoll had cut a long, continuous line to the end of the glass, he and another Los Angeles County firefighter peeled back the windshield. The 6-lb (2.7-kilogram), 36-inch-long (91-centimetre-long) axe went down, and the backboard was swapped in.

Within minutes, the ambulance had raced away, bound for the trauma centre with its famous patient in the back.

It would be hours before the news broke around the world but for Gomoll and the other nine members of Fire Station 106 in Rolling Hills Estates, California, Tuesday’s call — initially reported as a traffic collision with a person trapped — lasted just 12 minutes.

“He’s just another patient,” Gomoll told The Associated Press on Friday at Fire Station 106.

The 106’s firefighters, from Gomoll up to Battalion Chief Dean Douty, stressed that anyone in Woods’ dire situation would have received the same care from them.

“I didn’t know who was inside the car,” Capt. Joe Peña said, until a sheriff’s deputy told him.

And anyone else would get the same privacy, too — the firefighters declined to recount the athlete’s conversations and condition at the scene to preserve patient confidentiality.

“His identity really didn’t matter in what we do,” Capt. Jeane Barrett said.

Even so, those minutes marked a milestone in Gomoll’s career: It was the first time the 23-year-old Marine Corps veteran had performed an extrication like that in the field.

Gomoll joined the fire station, located about a mile (1.6 kilometres) away from the crash site, in August as a probationary firefighter. Just three weeks ago, he’d practiced similar moves with one of his superiors, Barrett.

“We’ve trained for stuff like this,” Gomoll said.

READ MORE: LA sheriff calls Tiger Woods crash ‘purely an accident’

Woods was transferred from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center on Thursday to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for “continuing orthopedic care and recovery,” hospital officials said. A Friday night post on Woods’ Twitter account said he “received follow-up procedures on his injuries this morning. The procedures were successful, and he is now recovering and in good spirits.”

Woods had shattered the tibia and fibula bones of his lower right leg in multiple locations. Those injuries were stabilized with a rod in the tibia during a long surgery. Additional injuries to the bones in the foot and ankle required screws and pins.

Woods had been driving a 2021 Genesis SUV on a downhill stretch of road known for wrecks when he struck a raised median in a coastal Los Angeles suburb, crossed into oncoming lanes and flipped several times.

The crash was the latest setback for Woods, who has won 15 major championships and a record-tying 82 victories on the PGA Tour. He is among the world’s most recognizable sports figures, and at 45, even with a reduced schedule from nine previous surgeries, remains golf’s biggest draw.

He was in Los Angeles last weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club. Monday and Tuesday had been set aside for him to give golf tips to celebrities on Discovery-owned GOLFTV.

The Los Angeles County sheriff has called the crash “purely an accident” and says drugs and alcohol did not appear to be a factor.

Everyone says Woods is lucky to be alive — and “if nothing else, it’s a good PSA for wearing a seatbelt,” Barrett added.

RELATED: Tiger Woods seriously injured in California car crash

The first responders did, however, correct previous reports that said they’d used the Jaws of Life and a pry bar called a halligan tool to free the celebrity.

Barrett, a 25-year fire service veteran, and her fellow firefighters know the dangers of the eponymous rolling hills in the area and have cut many drivers out of their twisted cars.

They initially had three plans for Woods’ SUV: First, try the axe on the windshield. If that didn’t work, see if going through the sunroof was a possibility. A third option would be to cut the entire roof off.

The firefighters and paramedics spoke to Woods — who introduced himself as “Tiger” — throughout, reassuring him through a hole in the windshield that he’d soon be free.

“You can tell he was in pain,” firefighter Sally Ortega said, but he was still responding to their questions and clearly anxious to get out.

“Luckily, our first plan was the one that worked,” Barrett said.

As the ambulance pulled away, Barrett surveyed the SUV to see what lessons her crew might be able to apply to save a future driver.

“No car is ever crumpled in the same way,” she said.

The firefighters later debriefed together around their station’s kitchen table, then ate salads for lunch in a nearby park — savoring the last of the quiet as the news finally made its way around the world.

Entertainment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bears are waking up hungry and starting to forage, Conservation Officer Service said on April 9. Prince Residents are advised to keep garbage in sealed containers to lessen bear attraction. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Keep bears wild – they are not teddy bears

Conservation Officer Service warns bears are waking up hungry

Prince Rupert couple Alvin Tait and Loni Martin have postponed their wedding two times due to COVID-19 affecting the marriage rates in Prince Rupert. (Photo: supplied/L.Martin)
No marriages in Prince Rupert in 2021 so far

Weddings down 23.9% in P.R. since COVID-19 with B.C. wedding industry loss at $158 million

Three North Coast organizations are granted funding to promote multiculturalism and support anti-racism, Jennifer Rice MLA announced on April 8. Conrad Elementary School students recognized the first Black Shirt Day on January 15, 2021, to advocate for anti-racism. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
North Coast organizations to benefit from anti-racism funding

$944,000 granted in provincial funding to aid multiculturalism

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle ‘launched 100%’ into B.C. Walmart removed after trapped workers rescued

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Most Read