- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2007

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Gov. Jon S. Corzine was apparently not wearing his seat belt as required by law when his official SUV crashed into a guard rail, leaving the governor hospitalized in critical condition, a spokesman said Friday.

A state trooper was driving Corzine to a meeting between Don Imus and the Rutgers women’s basketball team Thursday night when another vehicle, swerving to avoid a pickup truck, hit the governor’s SUV and sent it into the guard rail on the Garden State Parkway.

The crash broke the governor’s leg, six ribs, his sternum and a vertebra.

Authorities on Friday were still searching for the red pickup truck, which had been “driving erratically,” state Police Capt. Al Della Fave said.

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.

Friday morning, the hospital’s trauma chief, Dr. Steven E. Ross, said Corzine was stable and improving, and that he could be removed from a ventilator within the next few days. Corzine remained heavily sedated because the pain from chest injuries made it difficult to breathe, Ross said.

Senate President Richard Codey became acting governor Thursday evening after getting a fax from Corzine’s office saying 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.

Corzine was riding in the front passenger’s seat of the SUV 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.

Bobby Juska said he came upon the crash scene shortly afterward and said he saw Corzine’s feet hanging out the passenger side window.

“He was screaming, ‘My leg! My leg!,” Juska said. “He was definitely hurt.”

Corzine apparently wasn’t wearing his seatbelt, governor’s spokesman Anthony Coley said Friday. Seat belts are mandatory for everyone in front seats in New Jersey; the fine for violating the law is $46.

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