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Published: Tuesday, 6/13/2006

Findlay native Roethlisberger hurt in motorcycle crash


PITTSBURGH Doctors successfully repaired multiple facial fractures, including the jaw and nose, suffered in a motorcycle accident yesterday by Steelers quarterback and Findlay native Ben Roethlisberger.

The 24-year-old quarterback, who was not wearing a motorcycle helmet, was in serious but stable condition at Mercy Hospital after undergoing seven hours of surgery performed by a team of five surgeons.

Mr. Roethlisberger was injured in an accident at 11:10 a.m. as his motorcycle collided with a car in Pittsburgh. Witnesses said his head hit the car s windshield and then struck the pavement.

Dr. Daniel Pituch, chief of Mercy s division of oral and maxillofacial surgery, said Mr. Roethlisberger underwent surgery for facial fractures.

All of the fractures were successfully repaired, he said.

Dr. Pituch would not elaborate further on the quarterback s head injuries. But he indicated that the quarterback did not suffer any other serious injuries.

His brain, spine, chest, and abdomen appear to be without serious injury and there are no other confirmed injuries at this time, Dr. Pituch said.

Dr. Pituch said he did not expect Mr. Roethlisberger s condition to change overnight.

Although his injuries were serious, onlookers said it could have been much worse. Witnesses said, he twice struck his head on the car s windshield and then, after flying over the car, on the road.

Ben Roethlisberger Ben Roethlisberger

Indeed, the mood at Steelers headquarters later in the day was reserved optimism. Steelers president Art Rooney II said he was praying that Ben s going to make it all right after arriving last night at the hospital.

An earlier statement from Mr. Rooney said everyone in the organization was concerned and that, So far, we have been encouraged by the early reports from the medical team at Mercy Hospital.

Before going into surgery, Dr. Larry Jones of Mercy said that Mr. Roethlisberger was talking, was coherent, and was cognizant of the situation. One Steelers source said Mr. Roethlisberger was in surgery for a broken jaw, an injury that can take about seven weeks to heal. The Steelers season starts in 12 weeks.

Fans across the region shared concern about Mr. Roethlisberger s condition while debating his judgment in not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle, especially since he wears one for his occupation.

A motorcycle ridden by Ben Roethlisberger damaged this car in yesterday s collision. The Findlay native underwent surgery for facial injuries. No charges have been fi led in the accident.
A motorcycle ridden by Ben Roethlisberger damaged this car in yesterday s collision. The Findlay native underwent surgery for facial injuries. No charges have been fi led in the accident.

The accident scene left little doubt that the late-morning accident involving Mr. Roethlisberger s motorcycle and a Chrysler New Yorker had been horrific. Metal was twisted like licorice. Windshield glass shattered. Blood pooled on the pavement.

In the moments after the accident, onlookers shook their heads in concern. All they could do was hope for the best for the anonymous motorcyclist.

And then reporters arrived and spread the word that the accident victim was someone they all knew. Those who had been there were stunned. Others, who heard the news from the media, made a pilgrimage to the scene where the severely damaged car, demolished cycle, a red hooded sweatshirt, and blood stains gave silent testimony to what had occurred.

Mr. Roethlisberger was riding a 2005 Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle when a 1996 silver Chrysler New Yorker driven in the opposite direction by Martha Fleishman, 62, of Pittsburgh, tried to turn left onto a bridge in front of the motorcycle.

A woman who declined to give her name said she saw the accident and ran onto the road to help the victim. She didn t know it was Mr. Roethlisberger until a reporter told her about a half hour later.

Brenda Roethlisberger, Ben s stepmother, loads the family vehicle en route to Pittsburgh to see Ben in the hospital.
Brenda Roethlisberger, Ben s stepmother, loads the family vehicle en route to Pittsburgh to see Ben in the hospital.

That was him? Oh, my! He did say his name was Ben, she said, recalling that the injured man knew his name but was so disoriented he didn t know the city he was in. I told him to lie down. He kept trying to get up.

Others who saw him likewise didn t recognize him because of the injuries he suffered and the large amount of blood that covered his face and head.

Among them was Sandra Ford, a writer and artist, who had just finished teaching a writing class at the Allegheny County jail and was waiting for a bus. She noticed a motorcycle approaching from her right ridden by a rugged-looking white man with curly hair.

He was sailing, like he was enjoying the ride. He was going at a good clip but wasn t going overly fast, Ms. Ford said.

She said as he passed her, she noticed a car turning left in front of him. She said she expected the motorcycle to slow down or even have to slam on the brakes but was blocked from further view by cars traveling inbound. And then she heard a crunching sound and saw the motorcyclist fly over the car.

He was a like a doll someone threw up into the air, Ms. Ford said. I ran to the scene and he was lying on his back and wasn t moving. I thought he was dead.

Mrs. Fleishman s husband, Martin, confirmed in a telephone interview that his wife was the driver but said the couple didn t want to discuss what happened.

We really have no statement, Mr. Fleishman said. We certainly hope everything goes well for Mr. Roethlisberger but we have no other statement. Certainly this is terrible and unfortunate. We hope he has a speedy recovery.

The Pittsburgh police Collision Investigations Unit is investigating the accident. Both vehicles were towed for further investigative processing. There has not been any determination of the speed of the vehicles and no charges have been filed. The investigation could take several weeks to complete, police said.

Mr. Roethlisberger has been known to ride without a helmet when operating his motorcycle. Steelers coach Bill Cowher addressed the issue with his starting quarterback in May, 2005, after Cleveland Browns tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr., had a motorcyle accident in suburban Cleveland. Mr. Winslow hit a curb in a parking lot and was thrown from his bike, injuring his knee.

It s one of those things, where he talked about being a risk-taker and I m not really a risk-taker, I m pretty conservative and laid back, Mr. Roethlisberger said earlier. So the big thing is just be careful and that s what we do.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Michael A. Fuoco is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Contact Michael A. Fuoco at: mfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1968.

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