Originally created 08/13/02

Priestley expected to fully recover



LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Actor Jason Priestley faces weeks of healing and rehabilitation but is expected to fully recover from head and spinal injuries sustained in a high-speed crash during practice for an auto race.

Less than 24 hours after his car slammed into the Kentucky Speedway wall at about 180 mph, the former "Beverly Hills, 90210" television heartthrob was alert, moving his arms and legs and communicating with doctors and visitors.

"He is becoming more and more aware of his surroundings," Dr. Stephan Stapczynski, chairman of the University of Kentucky Hospital's Department of Emergency Medicine, said during a news conference Monday.

The 32-year-old Priestley crashed during practice Sunday for a race in the Infiniti Pro Series, a developmental circuit for the Indy Racing League.

He was flown to UK Hospital with a spinal fracture and a moderate concussion, as well as a broken nose, facial lacerations and broken bones in both feet. He remained in serious but stable condition Monday.

"He does not have any injury that shouldn't fully recover," said Dr. Andrew Bernard, a UK Hospital trauma surgeon.

Priestley was transferred to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis late Monday afternoon. He had made previous arrangements to be transferred to the facility, which has treated several other Indy Racing League drivers, in the event he was involved in a serious accident.

"His condition has improved and stabilized to the point where a transfer can be made safely," Stapczynski said in a statement.

Priestley may not need spinal surgery if his fractured ninth thoracic vertebra is stable, but probably will need surgery to repair the bones in his feet.

UK Hospital spokeswoman Mary Margaret Colliver said that since Priestley arrived Sunday morning, the hospital has been deluged with phone calls, cards, flowers, faxes and prayers from concerned fans. "The response has been unbelievable," she said.

Priestley, a native of British Columbia, starred as Brandon Walsh in the Fox network's "Beverly Hills, 90210," which ran from 1990 to 2000.

A publicist for Luke Perry, who also starred on the TV show, confirmed that the actor visited Priestley on Sunday at the hospital.

Priestley began auto racing in 1991 in the California Rally Series and won his first race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 1998. He is considered to be a knowledgeable and talented driver.

The crash occurred as Priestley roared out of the second turn in the final practice, apparently after driving through a patch of absorbent material that had been spread on part of the track about 10 minutes earlier to soak up oil from another car.