A published report says Billy Joel was drinking champagne shortly before his January car crash on his native Long Island. The East Hampton Star reports that Joel told police he had had “a glass of champagne” while having dinner with two friends at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor on January 25, although he now claims not to remember the conversation.
At 10:30 p.m. ET that night, Joel crashed his $100,000 Mercedes-Benz into a tree in the town, after which he spent the night in a local hospital before being discharged the following morning. Alcohol was quickly ruled out as a cause, with Joel denying it played a role in the accident. Sag Harbor Police Chief Thomas Fabiano said his officers didn’t give Joel preferential treatment.
Fabiano was unavailable for comment.
The newspaper also says the official police report quotes one witness as saying Joel had wine with his dinner, while another witness says he was driving fast just before the crash. Joel’s spokesperson dismissed those claims as “gossip” by “somebody who was not at the scene.” The representative added that Joel was taking an unnamed prescription medication in the week before the crash, which followed nasal surgery.
The car accident was Joel’s second in the area in little more than seven months. On June 13, 2002, his car skidded in the rain and crashed, and he wound up with scratches and bruises, and one side of his face was swollen, causing him to bow out of presenting an award to Stevie Wonder at the annual Songwriters Hall Of Fame induction ceremony the following night. There was no indication that alcohol was involved in that accident, which was chalked up to road conditions. However, Joel soon checked himself into the Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut, “for a planned 10-day stay to deal with a specific and personal problem that had recently developed.”
The facility is a substance-abuse and psychiatric hospital, and Joel reportedly went there for depression- and alcohol-related issues.