As a sedated Gov. Corzine was recuperating from a second surgery yesterday, state police announced that they had found - but would not charge - the driver of a red Ford pickup truck whose actions led to the accident Thursday night in which the governor was seriously injured.
The driver, a 20-year-old Atlantic County casino employee whom police located Friday night, did not realize he had caused an accident and actually drove away believing he had avoided one, officials said. Police would not release his name because he has not been charged.
Corzine remained in critical but stable condition in intensive care last night at Camden's Cooper University Hospital after his second surgery since the accident. He has 11 broken ribs, a broken sternum, a broken collarbone and a broken left leg, among other injuries.
State police Col. Joseph R. "Rick" Fuentes released a statement describing the accident on the northbound lanes of the Garden State Parkway in Galloway Township.
He said it began when the red pickup went onto the right shoulder of the road. The driver swerved to get back onto the pavement.
A white Dodge truck, coming up behind the Ford, swerved sharply to the left to avoid a collision.
The Dodge then hit the Chevrolet Suburban Corzine was riding in, sending it flying into the guardrail.
The Ford driver told police that the accident had occurred as the other two vehicles flew past him and that he did not realize he had caused the crash.
He then pulled back onto the Parkway and left the area, believing he was not involved.
Police were examining his car yesterday.
Corzine will remain on a ventilator at least until he undergoes a third operation tomorrow
"He is doing much better than any of us would have expected," Steven Ross, head of Cooper's trauma unit, said at a news conference at the hospital yesterday afternoon.
Yesterday's surgery, like the operation scheduled for tomorrow, was considered minor. The purpose was to clean debris from a 15-centimeter wound on Corzine's fractured leg.
Doctors will begin evaluating when to remove the breathing tube after tomorrow's surgery.
The doctors said the governor's vital signs are slowly improving, but they gave no timeline for when he would have enough mental capability to return to work.
His chief of staff, Tom Shea, said the administration hoped it would be "in a week or so," but would rely on doctors' advice.
"We're going to take it day by day," he said.
Doctors say Corzine is not aware of his surroundings and not able to speak. He is on narcotic pain medication and the sedative Ativan, "to keep him comfortable while he's on the ventilator," Ross said. The governor has awakened and answered simple yes or no questions about pain.
Physicians are concerned about complications, such as leg infections and pnemonia, but said Corzine now has no sign of those.
The governor's three adult children were with him yesterday, as was his girlfriend, Sharon Elghanayan, who was traveling out of the country when the accident occurred.
The accident came at a pivotal moment for Corzine. He is currently negotiating a state budget with lawmakers, and his administration is now exploring the possibility of leasing or selling state assets as a way to fill the state deficit.
Former Gov. and current State Senate President Richard J. Codey is serving as the state's acting governor. Codey, a Democrat like Corzine, has said he did not expect the accident would interrupt budget talks because most of the major decisions come up in May.
Contact staff writer Elisa Ung at 609-989-9016 or