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Red Wings player, masseur emerging from comas

June 29, 1997

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) _ Detroit Red Wings star Vladimir Konstantinov and the team masseur of the Stanley Cup champions are coming out of their comas, but will still need months of rehabilitation, doctors said Sunday.

Konstantinov and Sergei Mnatsakanov have been upgraded to serious condition. They had been listed in critical condition since June 13 _ six days after the Red Wings won their first Stanley Cup in 42 years _ when the limousine they were in crashed into a tree.

``It would be appropriate to say they are emerging from comas,″ said Dr. James Robbins, a trauma surgeon at William Beaumont Hospital.

Konstantinov was removed from a ventilator Saturday and has been breathing on his own since then, Robbins said. The 30-year-old defenseman also is able to open his eyes, sit in a special chair for a few hours a day and is ``more wakeful″ in the presence of his wife, Irina, Robbins said.

Mnatsakanov, who was still being weaned from his ventilator, is able to ``clearly see and recognize″ family members, shake hands, wipe his brow with a washcloth and communicate nonverbally, said Dr. Karol Zakalik, a Beaumont neurosurgeon.

Neither man is expected to need brain surgery, Zakalik said.

Mnatsakanov has undergone successful surgery since an injury to his spine was identified. The extent of that injury remained unknown Sunday, doctors said.

``Both of them have made slow progress in the last week or so,″ Zakalik said. ``... The recovery from a head injury is not sudden. It is very gradual ... (but) both of them appear to understand what is going on around them.″

Robbins said the men’s families had asked him to thank everyone for their continued support and prayers.

``The Konstantinovs and Mnatsakanovs are people of great emotional and spirtual strength,″ he said. ``And I assure you that if it’s possible to will a person to health, that it will be done in this case, for both of these men.″

Both men have received feeding tubes and underwent tracheostomies, the latter to ensure they receive enough oxygen.

The men were returning from a golf outing when the limousine, traveling an estimated 50 mph, ran off a road and hit a tree in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham.

Defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov injured his chest in the crash and was released June 18 from Beaumont Hospital.

The limousine driver, Richard Gnida, sustained minor injuries.

Police have not filed charges in connection with the accident while the investigation continues.

Since 1994, Gnida had been ticketed for operating while impaired, operating under the influence and unlawful bodily alcohol content and twice for speeding, according to state records. Police were waiting for additional toxicology test results, said Jason Pernick, acting chief of the Oakland County Prosecutor’s warrants division.

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