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UCLA’s Tata Hurt in Crash, Faces Charges

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vae Tata, a UCLA defensive end who spent all of last season rehabilitating an injured knee and had shown in spring practice that he was ready to play again in September, won’t get the opportunity.

And that’s the least of his troubles.

Tata, a junior from Honolulu, was charged with felony DUI early Monday morning when the car he was driving overtook another on the San Diego Freeway in Torrance, hit it in the rear and overturned several times before coming to rest on its top, Jennifer Pendergast, an officer with the California Highway Patrol, said.

Teammates Billy Pieper and Brendon Ayanbadejo were in the car, which was returning from a weekend trip to San Diego. Both players were injured.

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The extent of Tata’s injuries was not revealed, but he underwent surgery Monday and Tuesday at Harbor UCLA Medical Center for what sources described as “internal” and “lower extremity” injuries.

“He’s lucky to be alive,” said Coach Bob Toledo, who was informed of the crash Thursday. “I was told that he fell asleep and his body hit the steering wheel.”

Rather, the highway patrol found “objective symptoms of intoxication,” Pendergast said, adding that a blood test was taken at the hospital and that results have not yet been received.

Pieper, a freshman who is also from Honolulu, suffered a broken leg and three broken bones in a foot. Ayanbadejo, a sophomore from Santa Cruz, suffered bruises.

Both are also defensive ends. Pieper may not be ready for the beginning of the season, but Ayanbadejo, who won a starting job during spring practice, is expected to be ready.

Tata started five games as a sophomore in 1995 before suffering a knee injury in a game against Stanford.


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