April 13, 2007
New Jersey Governor Is Injured in Car Crash
By DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI
and DAVID W. CHEN
CAMDEN, N.J., April 12 — Gov. Jon S. Corzine
was undergoing surgery Thursday night after a car accident in which he broke his leg, sternum, collarbone, six ribs on each side and a lower vertebra, state police and other government officials said.
Mr. Corzine, who was in the front passenger seat when his state police vehicle swerved to avoid an apparently out-of-control driver on the Garden State Parkway and hit a guardrail. He was flown by helicopter to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, where he was expected to remain in surgery until at least midnight.
Dr. Steven E. Ross, head of trauma at Cooper, said the governor was in critical but stable condition. Other officials said Mr. Corzine, 60, had remained conscious after the accident, which happened about 6:15 p.m., and complained of chest pains when he reached the hospital.
“There appears to be no spinal cord injury or brain injury,” Anthony Coley, the governor’s press secretary, said about 11 p.m.
Richard J. Codey, the State Senate president and a Democrat like Mr. Corzine, stepped in as acting governor. Aides said he would remain in charge as long as Mr. Corzine is hospitalized.
The state trooper who was driving the Chevrolet Tahoe that was carrying Mr. Corzine was flown separately to Cooper, and asked that no information about his condition be released. Samantha Gordon, an assistant to the governor who often travels with him, was also hurt in the accident but walked into the Camden hospital unassisted shortly before 8 p.m.
After delivering a speech to the New Jersey
Conference of Mayors at the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, Mr. Corzine was his way to Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion in Princeton, for a meeting between the Rutgers women’s basketball team and Don Imus
, the talk-show host who was fired on Thursday for making a racist and sexist remark about the players.
In a 9 p.m. news conference at the hospital here, Col. Joseph R. Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said that a red pickup truck entered the highway “erratically from the shoulder,” causing a white Dodge Ram pickup truck to swerve left. The governor’s driver, State Trooper Robert Rasinski, swerved to avoid the white truck, but hit it, and then slid into the guard rail, with the impact on the passenger side.
Colonel Fuentes said neither weather nor speed appeared to be a factor. He said Trooper Rasinski did “an excellent job handling the situation, considering that a car swerved into his path.”
The driver of the white truck stopped, he said, but the red truck did not, adding that state police will be examining cameras on the highway in hopes of identifying the red truck.
Governor Corzine was traveling, as he normally does, in a two-car caravan. Officials said the two troopers in the car following Mr. Corzine stopped to care for him rather than chase the red truck.
Mr. Fuentes said he was unsure whether Mr. Corzine was wearing a seatbelt; he often does not.
James Freund, a volunteer emergency medical technician in Leht, N.J., said he happened upon the scene and saw Governor Corzine, his glasses off, pulled from the car head first on an immobilization spinal board. “The only thing you could verbally hear from him was that he was moaning,” Mr. Freund said. “It looked like the car made a direct impact on the left guard rail and kind of hopped over it.”
Mr. Freund said he saw the injured trooper give the thumbs-up sign to a fellow trooper, and that a swarm of firefighters and some 30 law enforcement officers, “looking like C.I.A.
agents, dressed in black, with earpieces coming out,” surrounded the scene. He said the helicopter arrived at 6:25 p.m.
“It was obviously someone important,” he added. “I was assuming there was a fatality.”
New Jersey faces a $2 billion budget deficit that Mr. Corzine must close by July 1, and questions have been raised about the fiscal and legal soundness of the state’s accounting of its troubled pension system. He has been criticized by Republicans
and others for failing to disclose the extent of his financial gifts to a former companion who is also the head of the state’s largest union. And all of this is taking place at a time when federal prosecutors have subpoenaed records from the governor’s office, and legislative offices, as part of a broad inquiry into Trenton’s often-murky budgetary practices.
More immediately, he was scheduled to leave Saturday for a five-day trade mission to Israel, his second international trip since becoming governor last year.
A broken femur and ribs can cause significant blood loss and injuries to the lungs. The leg would probably require hospitalization for a week or more, and then many weeks of crutches and a cast.
The accident occurred at Mile Marker 44.5 in Galloway Township on the parkway’s northbound lanes, about five miles north of the Atlantic City Expressway. Mr. Corzine had already had a busy day. He appeared at a news conference in Bergen County, during which two rival Democratic camps announced that they had reached a political understanding and would not fight each other in a primary.
Then, around 5 p.m., he got word that state workers had approved a new contract that gives them a 13 percent raise over the next four years, but for the first time requires them to pay a portion of health insurance premiums.
By 7:45 p.m., the Rutgers team, which made it to the N.C.A.A.
championship game but lost to Tennessee, arrived at the governor’s mansion on a chartered bus. Mr. Imus had arrived earlier by limousine. Half a dozen news reporters and photographers waited outside, and a news helicopter flew overhead.
They spent three hours in Drumthwacket’s library, departing shortly before 11 p.m., without commenting on their meeting.
David W. Chen reported from Trenton and David Kocieniewski from Camden, N.J. Lawrence K. Altman contributed reporting from New York, and Tina Kelley from Princeton.