Thrashers' Snyder dies from accident injuries

Atlanta Thrashers forward Dan Snyder died Sunday night, six days after he was involved in a car crash with teammate Dany Heatley.

Snyder of Elmira, Ont., died in hospital from massive brain injuries without ever regaining consciousness, the team said.

"We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Dan Snyder," the Thrashers said in a statement. "Dan was a teammate and friend to all of us. We feel a tremendous amount of pain as an organization and extend deepest sympathies to his family."

Snyder's tragic death means charges against Heatley could be upgraded.

Heatley was initially charged with, among other offenses, causing injury by vehicle. But the Atlanta district attorney's office has recommended police upgrade that charge to first-degree vehicular homicide.

That charge carries a prison sentence of three to 15 years. A plea bargain to the lesser charge of second-degree vehicular homicide, a misdemeanor, is also possible.

Prosecutors were meeting with Atlanta police Monday afternoon. According to Erik Friedly, a spokesman for district attorney's office, the recommendation was based on the preliminary finding that Heatley was driving recklessly.

Police said Heatley was driving his Ferrari at about 130 kilometres an hour on a narrow two-lane road last Monday night when he lost control, spun off the road and smashed into a brick and wrought iron fence.

The car was ripped in half. Snyder, who was a passenger, was ejected from the vehicle. Heatley got out on his own but collapsed steps from the car.

Atlanta Thrashers Vice President and General Manager Don Waddell will address the media in Monday at 4 p.m.

Snyder's death came as a shock, said Brian O'Leary, an assistant coach with the OHL's Owen Sound Platers during Snyder's time with that team.

"I really thought he was going to pull out of this thing," O'Leary said in a late-night telephone interview with the Owen Sound Sun-Times on Sunday.

"I know the family was optimistic. I know he was in a medically induced coma. I know his vital signs were good. I don't know what happened but as far as everybody knew, everything was progressing well."

Snyder was born on Feb. 23, 1978, in Elmira. He was in his second year with Atlanta.

Snyder signed with the Thrashers as a free agent in 1999 after playing four seasons of junior hockey for Owen Sound.

He made a brief two-game appearance with the Thrashers in 2000-01 and skated in 11 more the following season.

Snyder finished with 10 goals and four assists in 36 games for Atlanta last year. He was expected to start the 2003-04 season on the injured list following ankle surgery three weeks ago.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement: "Dan Snyder was committed to his family, to his profession, to his team and to his community, and the news of his passing fills all of us with an overwhelming sense of sorrow.

"The NHL extends its deepest sympathies to his parents who have lost a cherished son, to siblings who have lost a loving brother and to players who have lost a devoted teammate."

In his minor league career, Snyder helped the Orlando Solar Bears win the Turner Cup (IHL) in 2000-01 and the Chicago Wolves (AHL) earn the Calder Cup in 2001-02.

Heatley also sustained serious injuries in the crash.

He underwent surgery Saturday for a broken jaw and an MRI found that he tore two ligaments in his right knee. He will require more surgery in about a week for the knee injury, certainly threatening any return to the ice this season.

with files from Canadian Press