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Injuries from car crash paralyze Seattle's Frier

KIRKLAND, WASH. — KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Mike Frier suffered a paralyzing neck fracture and two other players, including Pro Bowl running back Chris Warren, were injured Thursday night when their vehicle crashed into a utility pole.

Frier, 25, was listed in serious condition yesterday at Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue.

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"The likelihood of [Frier] walking again is very poor," Dr. Michael Schlitt, neurological surgeon, said at a news conference. "He'll almost certainly be wheelchair-dependent."

Schlitt said Frier's fifth and sixth vertebrae were fractured, damaging the spinal cord, and Frier could not move his legs or hands when he arrived at the hospital Thursday night. He said it's uncertain what movement Frier might regain in his arms. Surgery was planned to repair some of the damage to Frier's spinal column.

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Schlitt said he told Frier of his injuries and the prognosis.

"He is depressed, like anyone would be," the doctor said.

Also injured was reserve running back Lamar Smith, a rookie who turned 24 Tuesday. He was held overnight at the hospital. Seahawks orthopedic physician Pierce Scranton said Smith suffered a chip fracture in his back and a sprained ankle.

Warren, who ranks second in the AFC in rushing this season with 1,096 yards and has gained more than 1,000 yards the past three seasons, was arrested on investigation of vehicular assault, a felony, after he was treated for two fractured ribs and released from the hospital. After being booked by Kirkland police, Warren, 27, was released.

But yesterday afternoon, Rick Schaeffer, Warren's agent and attorney, said: "Chris was not the owner of the automobile, nor was he driving it at the time of the accident. He has asked me to say that his thoughts and prayers are with his teammate Mike Frier and that he hopes to return to the field as soon as possible."

Reached at his home, Warren would not discuss the incident.

Police are investigating the possibility that alcohol played a role in the accident.

"We believe there was alcohol involved. There were empty beer cans in the back of the truck," said Jim O'Toole, Kirkland police detective. He said it isn't known when the beer was consumed.

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The one-car accident occurred at 8:41 p.m. PST.

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."

O'Toole said a sample of blood from the driver will be analyzed to determine the level of alcohol. Such tests take about a week, he said.

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The three Seahawks and two of their teammates had been at a billiards hall and tavern in downtown Kirkland on Thursday afternoon, a bartender said.

"They were in between about 4:30 and 6:30 [PST]," said Kelly Simonson, a partner and bartender at The Shark. He said the five men consumed a total of about 10 beers and did not appear intoxicated.

Frier was Seattle's seventh-round draft choice in 1992 and was picked up on waivers by the Cincinnati Bengals that year. He played in 31 games with the Bengals, making nine starts, before being released Oct. 13. He played in three games as a reserve with the Seahawks this season.


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