Doctors say Priestley expected to make full recovery following race car crash


Tuesday, August 13th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) _ As Jason Priestley recovered from slamming his race car into a wall at about 180 mph, Kelley Racing team general manager Jim Freudenberg said he had no doubt the actor would drive again.

``He's a fighter, one of the toughest little guys I know,'' Freudenberg said less than 24 hours after the former ``Beverly Hills 90210'' heartthrob was seriously injured during practice at the Kentucky Speedway.

``He doesn't give up easily. If I'm going to keep him out of a race car, it's going to be a fight. That's just the way he is.''

Priestley, 32, faces weeks of healing and rehabilitation but is expected to fully recover, doctors said Monday.

He was airlifted from the University of Kentucky Hospital to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis late Monday afternoon, and he remained in serious but stable condition Monday night.

Priestley crashed during practice for an Infiniti Pro Series race on Sunday. He suffered a broken back, a moderate concussion, a broken nose, fractures in both feet and a host of cuts and bruises on his face and neck.

Priestley was fitted with a back brace Monday to determine the stability of the fracture in his ninth thoracic vertebra. Tests showed no immediate signs of paralysis or permanent neurological damage.

Dr. Andrew Bernard, a UK Hospital trauma surgeon, said he probably would not need spinal surgery but likely would require surgery to repair the broken bones in his feet.

``I'd say it's going to be many weeks before he's back up and doing some of the things that he likes to do,'' Bernard said.

Hospital officials said family members, friends and members of the Kelley Racing team stayed with Priestley day and night to offer support.

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

Freudenberg, who has known Priestley for over a decade, said a sense of dread washed over him when he couldn't reach Priestley by radio after the crash.

``I asked him to respond, and he didn't,'' Freudenberg began. ``I asked him again, and still there was no response, and that was tough.

``It's a little more than him just being a driver for our race team. He's a very good friend, and that was one of the hardest days of my life.''