January 27, 2003 10:00 AM

“Piano Man” Billy Joel was hospitalized for several hours early Sunday after smashing his car into a tree along a highway in the Hamptons community of Sag Harbor.

A spokesman for University Hospital at Stony Brook, N.Y., confirmed to the Associated Press that the singer was released Sunday morning but would not comment on Joel’s injuries.

The New York Daily News and New York Post report that the accident occurred Saturday night around 10:30 p.m., when the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer swerved into a tree as he was driving his Mercedes-Benz S600.

“It’s a miracle he’s alive,” local resident Winthrop Barrett, 45, told the Post after he “heard the thump” caused by the collision outside his home.

“He only sideswiped a tree,” said Barrett. “If he hit it head-on, he’d be dead.”

Joel reportedly sustained minor facial cuts. He had to be taken by helicopter to the hospital, said the Daily News.

No charges were filed, police Officer Hugh Caulfield told AP Sunday. Joel wasn’t given a Breathalyzer test, he said.

Last summer, Joel voluntarily checked into the Silver Hill substance abuse and psychiatric center at New Canaan, Conn., reportedly after becoming “very depressed” when a respiratory infection forced him to cut short a tour with Elton John.

Joel told PEOPLE in July that he had begun “what I ultimately realized was a prolonged period of overindulgence. I don’t want to get any more specific.”

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