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Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Updated: August 15, 6:54 PM ET
Whirlwind days in Minnesota may have taken toll

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- The men who golfed with Herb Brooks on Monday morning, just hours before his death in a single-vehicle accident, say they won't be surprised if authorities conclude that Brooks fell asleep before his minivan crashed.

Hockey sticks in the form of a cross and a University of Minnesota cap mark the site of Herb Brooks' fatal crash.

Meanwhile, a preliminary check of the van driven by Herb Brooks showed no mechanical problems, the state Department of Public Safety said Wednesday.

"The prevailing thought is that in the cursory look that everything looked OK with the vehicle," Public Safety spokesman Kevin Smith said.

Brooks was in the state last weekend for a celebrity golf tournament where he attended two fund-raisers, played 29 holes of golf in two rounds and stayed up late two nights socializing with friends. All before he took off in his minivan about noon Monday for the 190-mile drive to the Twin Cities to catch a plane to Chicago.

Brooks didn't make it, veering off the road near Forest Lake just 25 miles north of the Twin Cities.

"It's only speculation, but I think he was tired," said John Mayasich, a 1956 and 1960 Olympian and Gophers hockey legend who had Brooks at his cabin over the weekend. They golfed together Monday.

Mayasich and others who were with Brooks during his last two days said he spent that time supporting his beloved sport of hockey in a whirlwind fashion that was typical of him, but at a pace that would fatigue men half of his 66 years.

"I'm sure that, like everybody, he was tired because he ran around so much and he was out playing golf in the hot sun," said Tom Micheletti, chairman of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame's board of directors.

On Saturday, Brooks attended a fund-raiser for the Eveleth Hippodrome. Later that night, he stayed up for a few hours and had a couple of beers with some friends.

Brooks and others went to brunch Sunday morning, played 18 holes of golf that afternoon and then went to a dinner and silent auction to benefit the Hockey Hall of Fame. That night, Brooks and friends went for pizza about 9:30 p.m. and then reminisced for a couple of hours.

On Monday morning, they returned to the golf course for a celebrity tournament to benefit the Hockey Hall of Fame. After 11 holes, Brooks left at about 11:50 a.m., saying he had to catch a plane.

If Brooks did doze off while driving, investigators may never be able to prove it because he was alone in the van, said State Patrol Lt. Chuck Walerius.

Public safety spokesman Smith said investigators were preparing an administrative subpoena to get Brooks' cell phone records. They want to know if he was on the phone when he veered off Interstate 35.

Smith said it appears Brooks was not speeding when the crash happened.

Experts in accident reconstruction visited the crash scene Wednesday morning, but most of the rest of the investigation will happen in the office, Smith said. He expects it will be at least one or two weeks before investigators are able to say why Brooks crashed.

A report from the Anoka County coroner's office said Brooks wasn't wearing a seat belt and died of multiple blunt-force chest and abdominal injuries when he was ejected from his minivan.

The report is preliminary, but the State Patrol said there are no indications that Brooks suffered any health problems or that he was traveling above the 70 mph speed limit before the crash.

Walerius said it appears that Brooks could have survived if he had been wearing a seat belt.

"You don't know what the extent of the injuries would have been, so it's tough to tell," Walerius said. "But I can say that there was room to live in that van. Would he have survived? Probably."

Law enforcement officials said they hope to know within a couple of weeks what caused Brooks' minivan to spin out of control on the interstate.

"There is a lot to be done," Department of Public Safety spokesman Kevin Smith said.

Investigators began interviewing at least four witnesses Tuesday and experts in accident reconstruction were starting to piece together details, Smith said.

"Our reconstructionists spent a great deal of time at the scene," he said. "They will try to figure out speed; they'll look through the vehicle."

A cell phone was in the minivan, but Brooks wasn't talking on it at the time of the crash, Smith added.

An early check showed nothing mechanically wrong with the van driven by Brooks, Smith said Wednesday.

Police say the van veered right onto the grassy area, then rolled when Brooks apparently overcorrected his steering. He was found about 40 yards from the vehicle, dead at the scene. Police weren't aware of any pre-existing health problems, and there were no signs to indicate that alcohol was a factor in the crash.

"We came up to the body and saw he was still breathing at the time," said John Seeger, who was driving a few hundred yards behind Brooks' car when it veered off the road. Seeger told KSTP-TV that Brooks was unconscious the entire time.

"You felt helpless, you really did," Seeger said. "But in the same sense, you wanted to try and do anything and everything you could for him."