041307corzine.jpgGov. Jon S. Corzine was in critical condition Friday but expected to recover after his SUV crashed into a guard rail while heading to a meeting between Don Imus and the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

Police were searching for a pickup truck driver whose actions were blamed for the crash on the Garden State Parkway.

Corzine, 60, suffered numerous fractures, including a leg, his ribs, sternum and a vertebrae, authorities said.

The governor won’t be able to resume his duties as governor for days, if not weeks, and he won’t walk normally for months, his doctor said. Fortunately, he did not suffer any brain damage, said Dr. Robert Ostrum, who performed two hours of surgery Thursday night at Cooper University Hospital.

Senate President Richard Codey has taken over as acting governor.

“He’s in serious shape, but he’s alive and going to survive. Hopefully, he’ll be back to work in a few weeks,” Codey said Friday on WNBC-TV.

Corzine was in the front passenger’s seat of a sport utility vehicle driven by a state trooper when a white pickup truck swerved to avoid a red pickup truck that had moved onto the highway from the shoulder, State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes said. The white pickup hit the passenger side of the SUV, sending it skidding into a guardrail. The red pickup left the scene.

The crash occurred around 6 p.m. while Corzine was en route from Atlantic City to the governor’s mansion in Princeton to moderate the meeting between the Rutgers women’s basketball team and Imus.

Imus was fired from his CBS radio program Thursday amid furor about racially charged comments he made about the team on air. The closed-door meeting went on without Corzine, and lasted for about three hours.

Fuentes said it was unclear whether the governor was wearing his seat belt. State law requires front-seat occupants to wear seat belts.

Troopers in a vehicle following Corzine’s administered first aid and called for help. Corzine, Trooper Robert Rasinski and a gubernatorial aide were flown by helicopter to the hospital.

When Corzine arrived at the hospital, doctors said, he was conscious but had several injuries: a femur bone broken in two places that had lacerated his skin, a broken sternum, 12 broken ribs, a head laceration and a minor fracture on a lower vertebrae. Rasinski had minor injuries and the aide was fine.

The governor was moved to the trauma intensive care unit after surgery and was listed in critical but stable condition early Friday. He was sedated and receiving pain medication.

Ostrum said a rod was inserted in Corzine’s leg, and additional operations were scheduled for Saturday and Monday. The injuries were not considered life-threatening, but it would be at least three to six months before Corzine could walk normally, he said.

“He’s got a pretty significant rehab in front of him,” Ostrum said.

Corzine, a Democrat who gave up his seat in the U.S. Senate to become governor, went into politics after being ousted as CEO of Goldman Sachs in a power struggle in 1999. He was elected to the Senate the following year.

Codey served as acting governor for about 14 months after James McGreevey resigned in the midst of an extramarital affair with a man.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

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