State Police Update Governor Corzine Crash Investigation
Yesterday afternoon, Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the State Police, met with the investigators responsible for dissecting the crash involving Governor Jon Corzine’s motorcade.
“This accident is different from any in recent memory because of intense and justified public interest in the safety of our highest government official,” said Colonel Fuentes. “As the agency charged with the protection of the governor and other top state executives, we believe it is our responsibility to undergo an immediate and critical review of our procedures in this capacity. We also intend to be forthcoming with the public on the crash investigation and our executive protection duties in as far as security concerns will allow.”
The following information is a synopsis from the ongoing accident investigation:
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.
The post-accident investigation response was the responsibility of the New Jersey State Police Fatal Accident Investigation Unit, Crime Scene Investigations, and Troop E Criminal Investigations Office.
The investigation included interviews of all witnesses, examination of evidence including tire marks, vehicle damage assessments, and information gleaned from the Crash Data Retrieval System (so called black box).
With regard to the speed of the Governor’s vehicle, all investigative data points to a speed of approximately 91 mph five seconds before impact with the guide rail. The vehicle’s speed at the time of impact with the guide rail was approximately 30 mph.
Colonel Fuentes has asked that the State Police Motor Vehicle Accident and Vehicular Pursuit Review Board convene as soon as possible to review the accident report. The board is comprised of State Police experts in these matters. It is standard procedure that all accidents or pursuits involving State Police vehicles are forwarded to this board for review. They will consider all factors and determine whether the accident should be classified as preventable, or non-preventable. Should the accident be deemed preventable, the review board may recommend training or disciplinary actions.
To ensure transparency and accountability, Colonel Fuentes asked Attorney General Stuart Rabner to appoint an additional participant to the review board. General Rabner has asked Kathleen Wiechnik of the State Ethics Commission to serve in this capacity.
New Jersey traffic laws require the wearing of seatbelts for all occupants of front seats. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that all front seat occupants under the age of 18 are properly restrained by either seatbelts or child safety seats.
Colonel Fuentes has also asked the Attorney General to undertake a critical review of the practices of our Executive Protection Unit (EPU) with regard to vehicular transportation of those officials with state troopers as drivers. The Attorney General will assemble an independent group to review the current practices of EPU.
In the aftermath of this serious accident, the Colonel and Attorney General look forward to the development of policies that will improve upon the “best practices” now in use throughout the country.
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