N.J. governor critical after SUV crash
CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine was in critical condition Friday but expected to recover after his SUV crashed into a guard rail while heading to a meeting between Don Imus and the Rutgers women’s basketball team.
The crash on the Garden State Parkway broke the governor’s leg, six ribs, his sternum and fracturing a vertebrae. Authorities were still searching for a pickup truck driver whose actions were blamed for causing it.
Corzine, 60, did not suffer any brain damage in the crash. But he won’t be able to resume his duties as governor for several days, if not weeks, and he won’t walk normally for months, Dr. Robert Ostrum said performing surgery on the governor Thursday night at Cooper University Hospital.
Senate President Richard Codey became acting governor Thursday evening after being notified by fax from Corzine’s office that the governor had been injured.
“He’s in serious shape, but he’s alive and going to survive. Hopefully, he’ll be back to work in a few weeks,” Codey said Friday on WNBC-TV.
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Corzine was riding in the front passenger’s seat of a sport utility vehicle driven by a state trooper when a white pickup truck swerved to avoid a red pickup truck that had moved onto the highway from the shoulder, State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes said. The white pickup hit the passenger side of the SUV, sending it skidding into a guardrail. The red pickup left the scene.
The crash occurred around 6 p.m. while Corzine was en route from Atlantic City to the governor’s mansion in Princeton to moderate a meeting between the Rutgers women’s basketball team and radio personality Don Imus.
Imus was fired from his CBS radio program Thursday amid furor about racially charged comments he made about the team on air. The closed-door meeting went on without Corzine, and lasted for about three hours.
Fuentes said it was unclear whether the governor was wearing his seat belt at the time of the crash. Seat belts are mandatory for everyone in front seats in New Jersey but not for back-seat passengers who are over age 18; the fine for violating the law is $46.
Troopers in a vehicle following Corzine’s administered first aid and called for help. Corzine, Trooper Robert Rasinski and a gubernatorial aide were flown by helicopter to the hospital.
When Corzine arrived at the hospital, doctors said he was conscious but had several injuries: a femur bone broken in two places that had lacerated his skin, a broken sternum, six broken ribs on each side, a head laceration and a minor fracture on a lower vertebrae. Rasinski had minor injuries and the aide was fine.
The governor was moved to the hospital’s trauma intensive care unit after surgery and was listed in critical but stable condition early Friday. He was sedated and receiving pain medication.
Ostrum said a rod was inserted in Corzine’s leg, and additional operations were scheduled for Saturday and Monday. The injuries were not considered life-threatening, but it would be at least three to six months before Corzine could walk normally, he said.
“He’s got a pretty significant rehab in front of him,” Ostrum said.
Corzine, a Democrat who gave up his seat in the U.S. Senate to become governor, went into politics after being ousted from Goldman Sachs, where he had been CEO, in a power dispute in 1999. He was elected to the Senate the following year.
The acting governor, Codey, also served as acting governor for about 14 months before Corzine took office last year following former Gov. James McGreevey’s resignation over an extramarital affair with a man.
Associated Press Writer Angela Delli Santi in Trenton contributed to this report.