N.J. Governor Has 2nd Surgery
Corzine Recovering; Driver Blamed For Crash Didn’t Know He Was Involved
CAMDEN, N.J., April 14 — New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D) underwent surgery on his injured leg Saturday, while state police said the driver blamed for the wreck that critically injured the governor had been found but did not realize he was involved.
Corzine’s recovery was progressing better than doctors expected, said Steven Ross, the head of trauma at Cooper University Hospital. In the surgery, doctors cleaned a six-inch wound on Corzine’s left thigh.
The governor is not able to speak and is not aware of his surroundings because of his heavy sedation. He is expected to remain on a ventilator until at least Monday, doctors said.
Corzine was hurt Thursday when the sport-utility vehicle he was riding in was clipped by a vehicle that swerved to avoid a red pickup truck that officials said was being driven erratically. Corzine’s vehicle slammed into a guardrail along the Garden State Parkway in Galloway Township, near Atlantic City.
The 20-year-old driver of the red truck was found Friday night at an Atlantic City casino where he works and was interviewed by police officers, police said.
He was not charged with leaving the scene of an accident because he did not realize he was involved in the crash, State Police Capt. Al Della Fave said. However, authorities left the door open for charges to be filed later, saying the investigation was not complete.
An official with knowledge of the investigation described the man as a “special-needs driver” but said it was unclear if that contributed to the accident. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter, spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The driver apparently thought he had avoided an accident because his truck never came in contact with other vehicles, police said.
“He hadn’t any inkling that he contributed to” the accident, Della Fave said. “That alleviates him of the responsibility of remaining at the accident scene.”
Corzine apparently was not wearing his seat belt, as required by law, while riding in the SUV, which was driven by a state trooper. In addition, the vehicle’s air bags may have not inflated, according to Tom Shea, the governor’s chief of staff.
The governor’s femur was broken in two places. He underwent two hours of surgery on his leg after being hospitalized. He also suffered a broken sternum, 12 broken ribs, a head laceration and a minor fracture on a lower vertebra, according to doctors at Cooper University Hospital, where he was flown by helicopter after the crash. Corzine, 60, did not appear to suffer brain damage.
His injuries are not considered life-threatening, but doctors say the governor faces lengthy rehabilitation.
Shea said he was hopeful that Corzine could resume his duties in “a week or so,” depending on doctor recommendations. Shea said it is possible that Corzine would govern from his hospital bed.
Orthopedic surgeon Robert F. Ostrum answers questions about injuries to New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine. At right is Tom Shea, Corzine’s chief of staff. At left is Steven Ross, head of trauma at Cooper University Hospital. Corzine was critically injured Thursday.