Pelle Lindbergh of the Philadelphia Flyers, the top goaltender in the National Hockey League last season, was brain dead Sunday, hours after his sports car failed to make a turn and slammed into a cement wall.
The 26-year-old Lindbergh was being kept alive by a respirator at the John F. Kennedy Hospital-Stratford Division, said Flyer spokesman Rodger Gottlieb.
Dr. Edward Viner, the team physician, said Lindbergh had been drinking and that "it is conceivable that alcohol had something to do with this accident."
"The hope for recovery is really nil," Viner said. He said Lindbergh suffered "a very serious injury to the brain stem" which controls basic functions, including breathing.
Lindbergh, driving with two passengers, slammed his car into a three-foot-high cement wall in front of a schoolhouse in nearby Somerdale, said police officer Frank Rizzo. The policeman said Lindbergh "failed to negotiate a turn" about 5:41 a.m.
Viner said Lindbergh stopped breathing at the time of the accident and did not resume until he was put on the respirator at the hospital about 15 minutes later.
The lack of oxygen "damaged the brain secondarily," Viner said. "So we have a very, very serious situation."
The Swedish-born Lindbergh's fiancee and his mother, Anna Lisa Lindbergh, visiting from Sweden, were at the hospital, Gottlieb said. He said Flyer Coach Mike Keenan was also at the hospital with other team members, but they left for an emergency meeting at their practice rink.
"It was felt they should all be together and told what has happened. They're all very shaken. It's a tragedy of the most overwhelming proportions," Gottlieb said.
Viner said Lindbergh's family members "face the possibility" of having to decide whether to disconnect him from life-sustaining machinery.
"We can't do anything about making that kind of decision until they come to grips with this," the doctor said. He said such a decision would come today at the very earliest.
Lindbergh, in his fourth year in the National Hockey League, won the Vezina Trophy last year as the league's top goaltender. With a 40-17-7 regular season record, he was only the third goaltender in Flyer history to record 40 or more wins. He was a member of the 1980 Swedish Olympic team, and was the American Hockey League's most valuable player and rookie of the year in 1981 with the Maine Mariners.
Also injured in the accident were Lindbergh's passengers, Ed Parvin, whom Gottlieb described as a friend, and Kathy McNeal, 22, who Gottlieb said was Parvin's companion.
Gottlieb said the couple suffered "multiple injuries." Parvin, who was taken for surgery to Cooper Hospital in Camden, was in critical condition, said nursing supervisor Ellen Edwards. McNeal was in stable condition at the hospital here, said a relative who asked not to be named.
Lindbergh did not play in the Flyers' 5-3 victory over the Boston Bruins Saturday night in Philadelphia, as the team stretched its winning streak to 10 games.
BettyAnn Cowling, one of the first emergency medical technicians to arrive at the accident scene, said Lindbergh's car was heading south on Somerdale Road when it crossed the northbound lane and slammed into the cement wall.
The accident occured on a very sharp curve that had been the site of many previous accidents, said Cowling.
The driver's side of the car was crushed inward by the impact, and rescue personnel had to use a power tool to open the passenger-side door, she said.
Lindbergh initially had a pulse and was bleeding from the mouth and nose, Cowling said. As rescue personnel were removing him, he went into cardiac arrest, but was revived through cardiopulmonary resuscitation, she said.
Viner said he was unsure what role drinking played in the accident.
"He had been drinking. I really feel very, very ambivalent about what to say about this. Pelle Lindbergh is . . . a very, very fine human being," the doctor said.
Viner would not say how much alcohol the goalie had consumed. "Obviously, he had something to drink. I don't know if that had a role in the accident," Viner said.
"This is not a young man that was out drinking it up all the time," Viner added. "For Pelle to have a beer or two was the most we ever saw."
Said Gottlieb: "He loved fast cars, loved his Porsche."
The Flyers are not scheduled to play again until Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers.
Lindbergh this season had a 6-2-0 record, with 23 goals scored against him for an average of 2.88 per game. He had one shutout.
His substitute, Bob Froese, is 5-0-0 with 13 goals against and a 2.60 average. The two had given the Flyers one of the best goaltending corps in the NHL.
Last season Lindbergh, born in Stockholm on May 24, 1959, was the first-ever recipient of the Bobby Clarke Trophy as the Flyers' Most Valuable Player.
Lindbergh was drafted by the Flyers in the second round of the 1979 NHL entry draft from the Aik Solna Club in Sweden. In 1981-82 he was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team.
Curt Lindstrom, newly named coach of the Swedish national hockey team, recalled coaching Lindbergh when the youngster joined the Hammarby club of Stockholm.
"I first met Pelle when he was only eight and I coached him in one of Hammarby's cub teams," Lindstrom said. "I talked with him only a few weeks ago and I am deeply shocked by this tragic accident. He was a fantastic guy in all respects."
Lindstrom said Lindbergh was "something of a child prodigy. We soon discovered his phenomenal talent as a goaltender, even at that tender age. He also remained the same nice kid throughout despite his success, always smiling, friendly, open and positive." Pelle Lindbergh's Career
Year GP GA Avg. W-L-T 1981-82 8 35 4.38 2-4-2 1982-83 40 116 2.98 23-13-3 1983-84 36 135 4.05 16-13-3 1984-85 65 194 3.02 40-17-7 1985-86 8 23 2.88 6-2-0 Totals 157 503 3.30 87-49-15
Note: Lindbergh won the Vezina Trophy as NHL's outstanding goaltender for the 1984-85 season.