What caused NJ Gov. Jon Corzine’s car accident?

As we all know by now, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine was in a serious car accident last Thursday evening that has left him in critical but stable condition. Initial news reports labelled this accident as a hit and run, but the more that comes out about the accident, the more it looks like it wasn’t a hit and run at all.

Gov. Corzine wasn’t wearing a seatbelt the night of the accident, and the latest news today is that the vehicle was going 91 MPH in a 65 MPH zone when it crashed. Here’s more, via the AP (h/t ST reader vatar):

CAMDEN, N.J. – The sport utility vehicle carrying Gov. Jon S. Corzine was traveling about 91 mph moments before it crashed, the superintendent of state police said Tuesday.

The governor was critically injured when the vehicle crashed into a guardrail on the Garden State Parkway just north of Atlantic City last week. He apparently was not wearing his seat belt as he rode in the front passenger’s seat.

The speed limit along that stretch of the parkway is 65 mph.

The state trooper-driven SUV was in the left lane with its emergency lights flashing when a pickup tried to get out of its way. Instead, it set off a chain reaction that resulted in the crash.

Corzine broke his left thigh bone, 11 ribs, collarbone and chest bone. He also fractured a vertebrae in his lower back.

He remained in critical but stable condition Tuesday and doctors were assessing when he might be ready to breathe without a ventilator.

Doctors have said he doesn’t have brain damage or paralysis, and is doing well for someone who sustained so many injuries.

The driver, trooper Robert Rasinski, could be charged if investigators determine the crash was preventable, Superintendent of State Police Col. Rick Fuentes said.

Note the emphasis there. To my knowledge, there was no emergency that evening where the governor could justifiably have the SUV used as an emergency vehicle, because he was on the way to the governor’s mansion to ‘mediate’ the meeting between Don Imus and the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Sounds to me like the governor might have been running behind schedule, and used the emergency lights on the vehicle in order to get people to move out of the way.

Here’s the state police update on the crash from yesterday (emphasis added):

On April 12, 2007, at approximately 5:30 pm, the Governor’s motorcade, made up of two 2005 Chevy Suburbans, departed Atlantic City en route to Drumthwacket via the Garden State Parkway. The Governor was traveling in the first vehicle, which was driven by Trooper Robert Rasinski. The vehicle’s emergency lights were activated to clear traffic ahead. Governor Corzine was unrestrained in the right front seat and his aide, Samantha Gordon, was unrestrained in the left rear seat. Trooper Rasinski was wearing his seatbelt.

As the motorcade progressed north on the Garden State Parkway into Galloway Township, Atlantic County, it traveled in the left of two northbound lanes and encountered two additional northbound vehicles.

The first, a white 2003 Dodge Ram pickup truck, was operated by John M. Carrino, Jr. of Glenwood, New Jersey and occupied by Matthew Cameron who was seated to his right. His vehicle was in the left lane. In the right lane was a red 1991 Ford F150 pickup truck operated by Kenneth Potts of Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey.

As the Governor’s detail approached the vehicles, both drivers moved to their right. Mr. Pott’s vehicle was slightly ahead of Mr. Carrino’s vehicle and moved to the right shoulder. At the same time, Mr. Carrino’s vehicle moved to the right lane, slightly behind Mr. Pott’s vehicle.

As the Governor’s vehicle approached Mr. Carrino’s vehicle, Mr. Potts encountered a roadway delineator (mile marker signpost) near the right edge of the roadway and moved left to avoid it.

Mr. Carrino observed Potts’ vehicle moving back toward the roadway and took evasive action to his left, during which time the left rear of his truck collided with the right front of the Governor’s vehicle.

This impact caused Trooper Rasinski to lose control and travel toward the wooded center median. Subsequent corrective steering to the right caused the Suburban to slide clockwise from the paved roadway and shoulder into the western grass berm. There it struck a milepost marker, and then impacted the end of the guide rail. The rail hit immediately behind the left front wheel and penetrated the vehicle’s body, continuing through the front seat floorboard area. The SUV abruptly rotated 180 degrees, before coming to rest with its back portion on top of the guide rail.

All occupants of the Suburban were injured. Governor Corzine sustained the most serious injuries, being thrown within the vehicle during the impact.

Carrino’s truck stopped near milepost 43.5 with no injury to its occupants. The Potts vehicle continued on.

If I’m reading that correctly, the driver (Carrino) who struck Corzine’s SUV stopped, so that would indicate there was no hit and run. It’s unclear whether or not the driver of that red pickup truck (Potts), who police were initially searching for, knew an accident had happened.

What’s interesting to me more than the hit and run angle is how the SUV was being used as an emergency vehicle when, again to my knowledge, there was no emergency – no event on the level of significance of a VTech tragedy or 9-11 that would warrant the governor going 36 MPH over the speed limit.

Continued prayers go to the Corzine family, as I hope he makes it through this, but once he’s able to, he’s going to have a lot of explaining to do about what happened and why he was in such a hurry – this accident was bad as it was with what happened to him. Considering the conditions that night (heavy rain), it could have been even worse, and not just for him.

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