Injured N.J. Gov's Surgery Successful

The scene of a crash on the northbound lanes of the Garden State Parkway in Galloway Township where New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, left, was injured, April 12, 2007.
AP Photo
Surgery on Gov. Jon S. Corzine's injured leg was successful Saturday and he is slowly recovering from the serious injuries he sustained in an SUV crash, doctors said.

Doctors cleaned a 6-inch wound in his left thigh. Dr. Robert F. Ostrum said he would perform a similar procedure again Monday at Cooper University Hospital.

The governor is not able to speak and not aware of his surroundings because he's heavily sedated. He was expected to remain on a ventilator until at least Monday, doctors said. Corzine, 60, did not appear to suffer any brain damage.

"His vital signs are slowly, I will reiterate — slowly — improving," Ostrum said.

Corzine — who was riding in a sport utility vehicle driven by a state trooper and headed to a meeting between radio show host Don Imus and the Rutgers women's basketball team — apparently was not wearing his seat belt, as required by law. The crash occurred Thursday evening on the Garden State Parkway near Atlantic City when Corzine's SUV was hit by another vehicle that swerved to avoid the pickup truck, sending the governor's SUV into a guard rail.

The 20-year-old driver of the red Ford truck believed to have caused the crash will not be charged because he has unaware he had caused an accident, New Jersey State Police said Saturday. The man, whom authorities did not name because he is not being charged, works at a casino in Atlantic City.

A state official with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly, said the truck's driver, who works at an Atlantic City casino, was a "special needs driver" who may have a mental impairment.

Meanwhile, Corzine's doctors said they are pleased with the governor's recovery, though they cautioned he faces months of rehabilitation. It will likely be at least three to six months before he can walk normally, doctors said.

The governor's femur bone was broken in two places, and it protruded through his skin. 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 in Camden, where he was flown by helicopter after the crash.

Tom Shea, the governor's chief of staff, said he was hopeful Corzine could resume his duties in "a week or so," depending on doctor recommendations. Shea said it was possible Corzine would govern from his hospital bed.

Dr. Steven Ross, head of trauma at the hospital said Corzine is doing better than doctors expected. "He awakens, answers to simple 'yes or no' questions about pain," Ross said. "He won't remember much of what is going on at this point."

Doctors said Corzine, a 6-foot-3 former Marine and investment banker, was in good health and recently lost weight before the accident, and that could help his recovery.

Corzine was moved to the trauma intensive care unit after surgery Thursday night and remained in critical but stable condition Saturday after his second operation.

Camden Mayor Gwendolyn Faison said she saw Corzine's three grown children in a hospital waiting room after Saturday's surgery.

"They said he is strong," Faison said. "They were optimistic but they were still asking for prayers."

Senate President Richard Codey officially became acting governor Thursday evening after getting a fax from Corzine's office saying the governor had been injured.