Heatley posted $50,000 bond

Originally Published: October 2, 2003
ESPN.com news services

ATLANTA -- With the numbers of injured teammates Dany Heatley and Dan Snyder taped to the backs of their helmets, the Atlanta Thrashers beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 in a preseason game Wednesday night.

Snyder was still unconscious and in critical condition with a fractured skull at Atlanta's Grady Hospital, while Heatley was in the same hospital with a broken jaw and other less serious injuries received in a one-car accident Monday night.

"We were on a mission to win for our two guys," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said.

Heatley already had posted a $50,000 bond, set during a hearing involving a prosecutor and Heatley's attorney. Heatley is scheduled to be in traffic court Oct. 10, the day after the Thrashers open the regular season, to face charges of serious injury by vehicle, a felony; reckless driving, driving too fast for conditions and striking a fixed object, all misdemeanors according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Heatley was also charged with driving on the wrong side of the road, for which an additional $200 bond was levied.

"The district attorney is prosecuting the case because of the felony charge, which automatically makes it our jurisdiction," Erik Friedly, spokesman for Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Heatley took a blood-alcohol test, which is standard in serious accidents, but results will not be available for weeks, according to police.

The Thrashers considered canceling Wednesday's game, but decided to play. The team made two announcements -- one before the game and one in the first period -- thanking fans for gifts and cards which had been sent to the team for the players.

"We are humbled and overwhelmed by the support and prayers that we've received from all over, especially from back home," read a statement from Snyder's family. "Dany Heatley and our son, Dan, need strong support and positive energy in order to be able to overcome the difficult challenges that lie ahead.

"The support from the Thrashers family, the doctors and entire staff at Grady Memorial Hospital has been outstanding. Both Dan and Dany are getting the best care possible. These two young men are in need of our prayers."

Heatley's teammates weren't ready to speculate on how the 22-year-old wing, the MVP of the 2003 All-Star Game, will cope with the inevitable feelings of culpability once he rejoins the team.

"I imagine it's going to be very tough," defenseman Chris Tamer said. "Initially, you just want the guys to get better physically. Then I'm sure there's going to be a lot of emotions for both of them. I can't imagine how tough it's going to be for them and their families."

Police estimated that Heatley's Ferrari was traveling around 80 mph when he lost control on a curve in a two-lane road. The high-performance sports car plunged into a wrought iron and brick wall in front of an apartment complex.

The car was ripped in half. The players were thrown onto the road.

"He has to assume some responsibility for what happened," said Len Tuzman, director of social work at The Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York City. "His guilt is going to be a major issue for him to deal with. Ultimately, he's going to have to learn to forgive himself. But he may never be able to fully do that."

Heatley, of course, isn't the first athlete to face the ramifications of a fatal accident.

In 1993, Jeff Alm of the NFL's Houston Oilers wrecked on a highway, killing a close friend who was in the car with him. Apparently overcome with grief, Alm shot himself to death before police arrived.

Seven years later, NBA players David Wesley and Bobby Phills sped away from a Charlotte Hornets practice in their Porsches, reaching speeds up to 100 mph. Police said they were racing. Phills lost control and slid into oncoming traffic. Wesley saw his best friend die in the rearview mirror.

Wesley played on after the wreck, but it took him a while to recover emotionally.

"He played the rest of the year with a very pensive look on his face," his coach, Paul Silas, would say later. "I didn't know if that look would ever go away.''

Eventually, it did. Wesley averaged a career-high 17.2 points the following year. Last season, he scored 16.7 for the Hornets.

"The most important thing is you don't want people to make major decisions about life at a time like this," Tuzman said. "It's much too raw."

Heatley was the NHL's rookie of the year in 2002 and scored a team-record 41 goals last season. His gap-toothed smile was the face of the Thrashers, a team that begins the season a week from Thursday with high hopes of making the playoffs for the first time.

Tuzman said it's important for those around Heatley to "give him the sense that he continues to have value to many people. Over time, they're going to forgive him and he has to forgive himself."

Heatley must realize that he didn't intend to injure Snyder, Tuzman added. It was a mistake of youth, a lesson he will carry with him for the rest of his life.

"Most 22-year-olds think they're omnipotent," Tuzman said. "They don't think anything is ever going to happen to them until they get a little older and realize how fragile things really are."

Heatley sustained a broken jaw, minor concussion, a contusion on his lung and a bruised kidney. Team doctors said none of the injuries are career threatening.

Then there are the legal troubles. The most serious charge -- serious injury by vehicle -- carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years, if convicted. Prosecutors could allow Heatley to plead guilty to a lesser offense that would remove the possibility of jail time.

For now, everyone is focused on Snyder and Heatley making a full recovery.

"I'm not worried about the other things," goalie Pasi Nurminen said. "I just want to see those guys back with us."

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.