SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The dim street lamp at the intersection of Del Paso and El Centro Roads was no help to Bobby Hurley Sunday night.
The road was dark, and little did the Sacramento Kings rookie know, it was not deserted.
On his way home from a game, he turned left into a speeding car, was ejected about 75 feet into a drainage ditch and yesterday was breathing with the aid of a ventilator after eight hours of surgery to save his left lung.
Hurley suffered two collapsed lungs, broken ribs and facial, knee, wrist and back injuries. He was listed in serious condition at the University of California-Davis Medical Center. Doctors said yesterday that his pulmonary injury at the time of hospitalization was so severe that it was "potentially life threatening," and they warned of possible complications in the next four to five days.
He remains in intensive care unable to speak, with his parents, Bob and Chris Hurley of Jersey City, N.J., at his side.
Dr. Richard Marder, the Kings' team internist, said he was more concerned with "saving Bobby's life," than with speculating about whether Hurley could eventually resume his playing career.
"Potentially, I will say that the injuries are reversible," Marder said. "In an ideal world, optimistically, he could heal completely."
A police officer said Hurley did not have his seat belt on when the accident occurred.
"We've checked, and Mr. Hurley was not wearing one," said Detective Chuck Barham of Sacramento's traffic investigation division.
The police, meanwhile, were also investigating a possible malfunction in the 1970 Buick station wagon that struck Hurley's Toyota 4Runner at a speed of 55 mph about 9 p.m. (PST).
Information is being pieced together, but an eyewitness has said that the station wagon's headlights were not on and that just one of its two parking lights was lighted.
"And the one light was faint at that," Barham said. "Fact is, the car was not seen."
The driver of the station wagon, Daniel Wieland of Sacramento, 37, was wedged inside his vehicle after impact and suffered only a broken right leg.
Police said he was driving with an expired driver's license and that his car may have been straddling the center line of the highway before contact.
They said alcohol was not detected on either him or Hurley.
No charges have been filed by police against Wieland, but it was agreed that functioning headlights -- or stronger street lights -- might have prevented the accident, which took place about a mile from Arco Arena, where the Kings had earlier lost to the Los Angeles Clippers.
"We're talking about dark country roads," said Mike Heenan, public information officer for the Sacramento police.
"Arco Arena is plopped down in the middle of farmland. Unless you revamp every farm road in the Sacramento Valley, there'll always be dark roads."
Hurley -- the seventh player selected in last year's college draft out of Duke -- had no points and seven assists in the game, and left the arena at approximately 8:55 p.m.
He was traveling West on Del Paso Road, when the car in front of him -- driven by Mike Batham, a 46-year-old engineer -- stopped at a stop sign at the intersection of Del Paso and El Centro. Batham then turned left (or south) onto El Centro, and, according to what he told reporters Sunday night, immediately noticed the station wagon with one parking light coming his way. He pulled off the road.
But Hurley, who had pulled up to the stop sign, apparently never saw the station wagon. He made his left turn, according to police, and the accident occurred.
According to Marder, a team of doctors discovered that the main airway -- or trachea -- to Hurley's left lung was "completely torn from the lung and head to be surgically reattached. Fortunately, they were able to put that airway together again and save his left lung, and they did not have to remove it."
The biggest fear, Marder said, is that infections in the lungs could cause pneumonia.