The driver of the red pickup truck [now identified as 20-year old Kenneth Potts of Little Egg Harbor Township] mistook Governor Corzine’s SUV — its police lights flashing — for an emergency vehicle, authorities said Saturday [April 14], and was unaware that his pulling over was a factor in the wreck that critically injured the governor.
While various newspapers are banging on the fact that Corzine was NOT wearing a seatbelt (a violation of state law), it seems that the two Chevy Suburbans of the governor were travelling at a high speed. With emergency lights on these flashing, there may not have been much time to react.
The newspaper account continues:
Corzine’s schedule Thursday night required that he cover 90 miles — to Princeton from Atlantic City — in 90 minutes. State police have not said how fast the motorcade was traveling.
The governor’s two Suburbans were traveling in the left lane of the two-lane highway, state police officials said. Potts’ red Ford pickup was in the right lane.
“What happened was, he observed the motorcade approaching with the lights on. He pulled to the right, onto the paved portion of the shoulder,” Della Fave said. “For some reason … he wound up on the soft shoulder, hitting the grass, and there was a mile marker coming up on him. Those two things caused him to overcompensate, to try to steer onto the hard pavement.” The pickup swerved into the path of a white Dodge Ram in the right lane, which veered into the lead Suburban, where Corzine was seated in the front passenger seat. The Suburban spun and crashed into a metal barrier, hurtling Corzine — who reportedly was not wearing a seat belt — to the rear of the vehicle.
One wonders if Potts realized the flashing red light vehicles didn't pass him, and perhaps wondered why.
On April 15, JOHN CICHOWSKI developed the seat belt angle further. Talking about third graders in Saddle Brook, NJ:
Most of these kids probably didn't know that belts and the safety improvements they inspired are responsible for most of the 27 percent decline in New Jersey's traffic death rate in the last two decades. They probably didn't know these National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics either: Belted front-seat passengers are 45 percent less likely to die in crashes, and they're 50 percent less likely to suffer serious injuries, than belt-less passengers.
Cichowksi indicated the lack of a seat belt was probably not a first time event:
the 60-year-old governor ranks among the other 18 percent, according to aides. They said Corzine probably was unbelted Thursday when his SUV collided with a pickup truck on the Garden State Parkway in Atlantic County. And worse, they said he frequently rides without a belt in his state-police-chauffered SUV.
The Philly Inquirer had some other details:
The driver of the white Dodge Ram, John M. Carrino, 24, of Glenwood, Sussex County, was interviewed by police.
The area where the wreck occurred is not known for accidents, Sgt. Stephen Jones of the state police said, and he continued to say that the caravan was not speeding: "The governor's SUV and the follow car were going with the flow of traffic."
The air bags in the Suburban did not deploy, Jones said, because the first impact was a glancing blow off the right front fender from the Dodge Ram. The Suburban then smashed into a guardrail, with the impact on the driver's-side front wheel.
The Inquirer also noted:
Witness Bobby Juska told the Associated Press that he came upon the crash scene shortly after it happened, and saw Corzine's feet hanging out the passenger-side window.
"He was screaming, 'My leg! My leg!' " Juska said. "He was definitely hurt."
Two state troopers were following the governor's SUV in another vehicle known as the "chase car." Sgt. Jim Ryan and Trooper Erin Smith administered preliminary medical aid and called for a state police helicopter.
**One notes that the driver of the Dodge Ram that hit the Corzine vehicle was 24, and the driver of the truck that caused the Dodge Ram to swerve was 20. Corzine is 60 and Corzine's driver, Robert Rasinski, 34.