TRENTON, N.J. – Moments after a crash on the Garden State Parkway that nearly killed Gov. Jon S. Corzine, officials struggled to overcome initial confusion on the exact location, according to recordings from state troopers and others made public Friday.
In one recording, a woman who identified herself as Trooper Dawn Curran of the executive protection unit, called state police headquarters, but erroneously said that the motorcade accident happened on the nearby Atlantic City Expressway.
Curran then spoke to the expressway headquarters, and said that she had "lost" a call from a sergeant traveling with the governor who had reported an accident.
"They're on the Expressway," Curran said.
"They're on the Expressway?" asked a woman with the Expressway.
"Yeah, that's what they told me," the trooper said.
They spent several minutes trying to figure out what was going on.
Other officials began pinpointing the exact location of the accident.
"Major signal 11, north of the AC Expressway," says an out-of-breath woman who seems to be running as she spoke. "Be advised, put a helicopter on standby and expedite an ambulance for two."
Minutes later, what seems to be another woman's voice said to put the helicopter in the air.
"We need South Star," she said. "We have traffic stopped. We need them to expedite. They can land on the Parkway."
The seriousness of the crash was immediately apparent to one of the first people who called a 911 dispatcher on his cell phone.
"There were two big SUVs coming up with flashers (inaudible) the left lane and a guy in an SUV pulled off the shoulder in the right lane, spun one of these guys around and he's over the guard rail," he said.
A dispatcher asked if he was on scene. The man said he wasn't.
"It happened right in front of me," he said. "I just went right by them."
He then said, "One guy jumped out of the other SUV and is going to help them, but it's going to be a mess."
The 911 operator called State Police on the Parkway: "Trooper's requesting paramedics, EMS and anything you can send out there, fire, the whole nine yards."
Reports about the red vehicle initially believed to have caused the accident surfaced quickly, with troopers along the Parkway advised to keep watch for it.
At one point, a trooper mistakenly believes another trooper found and stopped the vehicle, only to be told, "I don't have it stopped. I'm just looking for it."
State troopers also worked with two descriptions of the vehicle — it was either a red van or red pickup.
Meanwhile, someone from the accident scene complained, "I've got rubber-neckers standing on the shoulder" and worries they may cause another accident.
Another official later added, "I've got people all over the shoulder here, trying to get close to the accident."
In all, the state Attorney General's Office released eight recordings from April 12, including transmissions from police and firefighters in Galloway Township, where the crash occurred, those made from the helicopter that flew Corzine 50 miles to Cooper University Hospital in Camden, and radio calls made by his executive protection unit.
On that day, the unit consisted of a trooper driving the SUV carrying Corzine, and two troopers in a vehicle that was following.
The crash on the Garden State Parkway left the Corzine with a broken left leg, 11 broken ribs, a broken collarbone and sternum, and other injuries. Corzine, 60, was in the front passenger seat and was not wearing a seat belt, as required by state law.
His driver, Trooper Robert Rasinski, was not seriously hurt.
Corzine's SUV was traveling at 91 mph in a 65 mph zone, just north of Atlantic City, taking Corzine to a meeting at the governor's mansion in Princeton. The meeting was with just-fired radio show host Don Imus and the members of the Rutgers women's basketball team, which Imus made racially insensitive comments about.
Corzine remained at Cooper, the nearest high-level trauma center, until Monday, when he moved to the mansion to begin rehabilitation.
The crash is under review by a state police panel, and Attorney General Stuart Rabner formed a special commission to study the protection unit.
It happened when the governor's SUV was clipped by a pickup truck and slammed into a guard rail. The pickup had swerved to avoid another pickup that was trying to get out of the way of the governor's vehicle.