3 Seahawks Injured In Car Crash -- Chris Warren Arrested After Accident; One Player In Serious Condition
KIRKLAND - Seahawk defensive tackle Mike Frier is in serious condition with a severe neck injury and two other players, including star running back Chris Warren, were injured last night when a vehicle driven by Warren crashed into a utility pole.
Warren was arrested on investigation of vehicular assault, a felony, after he was treated and released for two fractured ribs at Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue. After being booked by Kirkland police, Warren, 27, was released on his own recognizance.
Rookie running back Lamar Smith, who turned 24 Tuesday, was held overnight at the hospital. Seahawk orthopedic physician Pierce Scranton said Smith suffered a chip fracture in his back and ankle.
Frier, of Jacksonville, N.C., had been with the Seahawks since Nov. 2. Hospital officials declined to speculate on the possibility of paralysis as a result of the injury.
The one-car accident occurred at 8:41 p.m. when the Chevrolet Blazer Warren was driving was northbound on 108th Avenue Northeast just north of Northwest College, near 58th Street. The accident site is about five blocks from the Seahawk complex, but practice had been over for more than four hours.
Sgt. Mark Smith of the Kirkland Police Department said, "The initial indication is that they pulled out to pass a car. They passed in the left-turn lane. And then, as they were entering the northbound lane, they continued on across (the lane) and hit the pole."
Smith said there were no skid marks. He declined to estimate the speed of the vehicle. "We're not talking drag-racing. . . .," he said. "We're talking people driving too fast for conditions in the rain."
Smith said the pole caught fire as a result of the crash and eventually triggered three explosions that could be heard a mile away.
Smith said Frier was in the back seat and was "pinned in the vehicle."
"We had one person still pinned in the vehicle and firemen were trying to extricate him as we started getting a series of explosions that were coming off the top of that pole. Every time it blew up, there was a big shower of sparks that came down all over the firemen and the vehicle."
Dave Needham, 19, of Kirkland, was walking across 108th Avenue Northeast with friends just before the crash.
"It passed right behind me," he said of the vehicle. "I heard loud music, a big booming bass. We naturally turned our heads and looked. From what I saw, it swerved right and ran right into the power-line pole. There was a real loud crash. We ran across the street to a house and called 911."
Needham said he was one of the first people to get to the accident scene.
"Most of the windows were broken out. The back, both front side windows, the back," he said. "The guy in the back (Frier) was seriously injured, doubled over, and yelling. . . . A real heavy speaker box was on top of him when we got to him. It probably came flying up after the impact and smashed into him. A couple of people pulled the speaker off him.
"The man . . . was in incredible pain. It was tough to be there, tough to see. Waiting for paramedics, it was hard."
While police and paramedics worked, "The pole they hit was sparking and then it caught on fire. Then there was an explosion, which was incredibly loud. When they were pulling the guy out, there was a second explosion, then another smaller one. Three booms, then all the lights went out."
Needham described the damage to the vehicle as extensive. "The pole was almost to the steering wheel," he said. "It was all crumpled, almost split in half."
A second person, who was driving south on 108th Avenue Northeast when he came upon the accident scene, said he saw beer in the car.
"I saw a case of beer, Bud Ice, in the back of the truck," said Carl Bryant, of Kirkland. "It was crumpled up."
Said Needham, "When they opened up the car, the smell of alcohol came pouring out."
Sgt. Smith said police would have no comment regarding any role alcohol might have played in the accident until later in the investigation.
The impact of the vehicle hitting the pole caused a power transmission wire to fall to the ground. Three power substations were shut down, a Puget Power spokeswoman said, leaving 15,000 people without power.
Power was returned to two-thirds of the customers within 10 to 15 minutes. About 4,500 customers had power restored after nearly an hour.
Word of the accident quickly spread among Seahawk players. At least 13 somber teammates gathered in the waiting room of the emergency room at the hospital.
"People started calling each other," said wide receiver Terrence Warren (no relation to Chris).
Almost all the players left the hospital shortly after 1 a.m. after being briefed by team officials. No player would talk to reporters.
"You read about it, you hear about it, but when it happens to somebody very close it really is a shock," Seahawk coach Tom Flores told KIRO-AM early today. "It's something that we all have to keep praying for that they all recover."
Warren is one of the team's stars and ranks second in the AFC in rushing this season with 1,096 yards. He has scored nine touchdowns and accounted for 40 percent of Seahawk offensive yardage with his running and receiving. He has gained more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive years and went to the Pro Bowl, the National Football League's all-star game, last season.
Smith, drafted by the Seahawks in the third round last spring, has played in only two games and carried the ball twice this season. But he was expected to play more Sunday against Indianapolis because the Seahawks released Warren's backup, Jon Vaughn, on Monday.
Frier, 25, is a defensive tackle who was originally drafted in the seventh round by the Seahawks in 1992. The Seahawks cut him at the end of training camp with the intention of putting him on the practice squad, but Cincinnati claimed him.
He played in 32 games, starting nine, while a Bengal.
Cincinnati cut him this year after he had skipped practices because he was unhappy about playing time. The Seahawks claimed him, and he had played in two games for them and received high marks for his performance against Kansas City last week.
Seattle Times reporters Thomas Haines and Jack Broom contributed to this report.
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