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Governor's car reached 91 mph

The Baltimore Sun

CAMDEN, N.J. -- In the seconds before Gov. Jon S. Corzine was critically injured in an accident Thursday, the Chevrolet Suburban he was riding in was traveling 91 miles an hour, 26 more than the posted speed limit, according to a crash data recorder retrieved from the vehicle.

State Police Superintendent Joseph R. Fuentes said yesterday that the trooper driving the vehicle, Robert J. Rasinski, told investigators he had not known how fast he was traveling as he led Corzine's two-car motorcade, with the vehicle's emergency lights flashing, from Atlantic City, where Corzine had given a speech, to a meeting at the governor's mansion in Princeton. But the recorder clocked the speed at 91 mph five seconds before the Suburban collided with a white pickup truck, and 30 mph when it slammed into a guardrail along the shoulder of the Garden State Parkway, the police said.

Corzine, who was not wearinga seat belt, was thrown from the front passenger seat to the back, breaking his thigh bone in two places, a dozen ribs, his sternum, collar bone and a lower vertebra. He remains in critical condition and on a ventilator after three operations.

Fuentes said that troopers who drive the governor and other state officials are given discretion to use the emergency lights and exceed the speed limit in cases of an emergency, and, because of security threats, are advised not to let the governor's vehicle remain "bogged down in a traffic jam."

But the accident occurred as the motorcade was running late for a meeting where the radio host Don Imus was scheduled to apologize to members of the Rutgers women's basketball team, whom he had insulted with racist and sexist comments.

"If it's a non-emergency situation, we would ask them to obey the traffic laws and the speed laws," Fuentes said.

Eugene O'Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said speed might be justified for a governor racing to respond to a natural disaster, but that "an elected official trying to get to a routine appointment would certainly be out of the scope of an emergency definition."

Fuentes said he had asked the state's accident review board to study the crash and recommend any new training for the governor's drivers, as well as any traffic citations or disciplinary action for Rasinski.

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