Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Pelle Lindbergh was hovering near death tonight in a suburban Philadelphia hospital after he suffered severe brain and spinal cord injuries in an automobile accident early Sunday morning.
Lindbergh, 26, was listed in critical condition in the intensive care unit of John F. Kennedy Hospital in Stratford, N.J. He was able to breathe only with the help of a respirator.
"The hope for recovery is really nil," said Dr. Edward Viner, the Flyers' team physician.
"He is medically brain dead, as determined by two physicians of the hospital," hospital administrator Robert Wise said at about 11:30 p.m.
Lindbergh's mother, Anna Lisa, who was here visiting her son, and his fiance, Kerstin Pietzsch, were at the hospital. His father was expected to arrive Monday.
Wise said Lindbergh's parents "will make a decision about maintaining his life in its present condition."
Wise said Lindbergh would be expected to live through the night "on artificial means and medical support."
Lindbergh's brain stem, which controls automatic body functions, including breathing, sustained massive injuries, which doctors described as "a rattling around of the brain" inside the skull. Viner said the brain damage was compounded by the fact that Lindbergh went without breathing for approximately 15 minutes as rescuers tried to free him from the wreckage.
"I'm sure he didn't breathe from the moment of impact until they got him to the hospital," Viner said.
Lindbergh, who had two friends in the car, crashed his 1985 Porsche into the brick wall of an elementary school located on a corner notorious for accidents at 5:41 a.m. Sunday in the suburban town of Somerdale, according to police.
Two passengers in Lindbergh's car also were injured in the accident and were identified by authorities as Ed Parvin Jr., of Mount Ephraim, N.J., and Kathy McNeal, 22, of Ridley Park, Pa. Parvin was reported in critical condition, and McNeal in good condition.
Lindbergh had been at a bar at The Coliseum in Voorhees, N.J., a skating rink/nightclub where the Flyers practice. Police said they were unsure whether Lindbergh was legally drunk at the time of the crash, but Viner said, "It is considered possible that alcohol had something to do with the accident."
Somerdale detective Charles Pope said he arrived at the crash site five minutes after the accident occurred. "He was more or less all mangled up under the steering wheel," he said.
He said that after Lindbergh was removed from the car, his heart stopped beating, and CPR was administered.
Besides the injuries to the brain and spinal cord, Lindbergh sustained a broken hip, jaw, and two bones in the lower part of his left leg. He also had facial cuts.
Lindbergh, who played with the 1980 Swedish Olympic team, won the Vezina Trophy last season as the league's top goaltender and led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals. He had a 40-17-7 record in the regular season.
He was in his fourth year with the Flyers, and he did not play Saturday night in their 5-3 win at home over the Boston Bruins. Pietzsch, his fiance, said that after the game, he returned home to their townhouse in Marlton, N.J.
She said that because there was no game or mandatory practice scheduled for Sunday, Lindbergh decided at about 1 a.m. to go to The Coliseum to meet some teammates.
Flyers Coach Mike Keenan and most of Lindbergh's teammates were at the hospital early in the morning, then held a team meeting.
"He's a person that loves life," Keenan said. "I don't know how I can put into words how I feel."
Lindbergh was the latest in a succession of hockey figures -- including Guy Lafleur, Craig MacTavish and Stan Gilbertson -- to be involved in serious vehicular accidents.
"I don't know why hockey has been hit so hard," Washington Capitals Coach Bryan Murray said. "I hope we're not viewed in a party context. There's no doubt we have a lot of young people given a lot of money and a lot of pressure at an early age, and some can't handle it. But age hasn't really been a factor in these accidents."
Said Viner, "I feel ambivalent about what to say. Pelle Lindbergh is a fine human being. He was not a young guy out drinking it up."
As word spread of Lindbergh's accident, fans arrived at the hospital. Some wore Flyers jerseys and caps. Some brought flowers, and all brought a sense of sadness. And most of them were young.
"If there's to be any good to come out of this," Viner said, "it might be that young people will see what can happen when you drink and then try to drive."