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Jason has been taken off the respirator

August 11, 2002
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The condition of actor and racing enthusiast Jason Priestley is improving after he suffered serious injuries to the spine and head when he crashed his car into a wall at 180 mph while practicing for a speedway race on Sunday.

Jason has been taken off the respirator he was on, can move his extremities, and is becoming more aware of his surroundings, doctors said on Monday. He has also recognised family members and pronounced his own name. "He doesn't have any injury that he shouldn't recover from," said Dr Stephen Stapczynski of the Kentucky Medical Center.

The 32-year-old Canadian-born actor, best known for playing teen hunk Brandon Walsh on the TV series Beverley Hills 90210, was airlifted to hospital after the crash with fractures to both feet, a head injury and a fracture of the thoracic spine.

Henry Bock, Indy Racing League medical director, said initially that the spinal fracture could be called a “broken back”, but there was no indication that the spinal cord itself had been damaged. 

The actor had been racing in the Indy Racing League’s Infiniti Pro Series season, which started in July. The accident occurred early on Sunday during practice when Jason hit a retaining wall while taking a turn at the racetrack in Sparta, Kentucky. 

“He got sideways and he corrected and then shot off the track,” said former Indy winner Arie Luyendyk who saw the crash from the roof of the press box. “He turned right into the wall, and his first impact was basically head-on. What I’m thinking is, that’s really the one big hit that he took that might have hurt him.” 

Mr. Luyendyk added that Jason appeared to have driven through some “oil-dry”, which is an absorbent material spread on part of the track about ten minutes earlier to soak up oil from a leak from another car. Indy Racing League vice-president said drivers had been warned not to go through the substance. 

Jason found fame in the early 1990s on Beverley Hills 90210, and after the series ended in 2000 he worked in London West End in a critically acclaimed production of the Broadway hit Side Man. His film credits include Love And Death On Long Island, Tombstone and Eye Of The Beholder.

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Jason, who shot to fame on the TV series Beverley Hills 90210, is a keen racer and in 1998 he won a Grand-Am race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
The actor had been racing for the Kelley Racing team in the Indy racing League's Infiniti Pro Series season, which started in July. The accident occurred during practice on SundayPhoto: © AFP

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