Partying with friends is an accepted part of a celebrity lifestyle, and Pelle Lindbergh was no exception, but Lindbergh had barely begun to scratch the surface of his tremendous potential as a goalie with the Philadelphia Flyers when a horrific car accident ended his life on November 11, 1985. Lindbergh was only 26.
A native of Stockholm, Pelle Lindbergh was a Swedish goalie who, in 1980, played with the Swedish team in the Lake Placid Winter Olympics. Lindbergh was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1979 and was named goalie of the NHL All-Rookie team in 1983, and after two years, led the NHL with 40 wins. He was the first European goaltender to win the coveted Vezina trophy for best goaltender.
Lindbergh wasn’t an alcoholic. In fact, by all accounts, he avoided drinking during the hockey season. During the offseason, he was a guy who enjoyed a couple of beers while hanging out with friends. However, at the time of the accident, the team was on a 10-game winning streak, and Lindbergh was enjoying a long layoff between games with no mandatory practices scheduled for the following day. That night, Lindberg met up with some teammates at a local after-hours bar.
Pronounced Clinically Brain Dead
A charismatic, larger-than-life individual, Lindberg loved hockey, and he loved fast cars, especially his customized Porsche 930 turbo. The young athlete was traveling at a speed of about 80 mph in the wee hours of the morning when he missed a turn and drove his bright red Porsche into a brick wall near an elementary school in Somerdale, New Jersey. He wasn’t killed instantly, but his brain and spinal cord were injured beyond any hope of repair. He also suffered numerous broken bones, including breaks to his leg, jaw, and hip.
A police officer who arrived at the scene five minutes after the accident reported that Lindbergh was “all tangled up under the steering wheel.” According to toxicology reports, Lindbergh’s blood alcohol content was .24 at the time of the accident, well above New Jersey’s legal limit. Two passengers were severely injured but survived, one after experiencing several broken bones and a coma that spanned several days.
When Lindbergh was removed from the car, his heart had stopped beating and CPR was administered. Lindbergh was transported to a local hospital and after a few hours, declared to be clinically brain dead. His mother was visiting the U.S. at the time, but it wasn’t until his
father arrived from Sweden that the decision was made to turn off life support. His heart and other vital organs were removed for transplant.
Lindbergh was memorialized by the Philadelphia Flyers in a pre-game ceremony and a private service. The entire city grieved. Lindbergh was chosen, posthumously, for the 1986 NHL All-Star Game. Lindbergh’s body was returned to Stockholm for burial.
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