Gov. Jon S. Corzine apologized to New Jersey residents Monday as he left the hospital 18 days after a devastating car crash in which he was not wearing a seat belt and was riding in a car traveling at more than 91 miles an hour on the Garden State Parkway.
“I set a very bad example,” said a contrite Mr. Corzine, who broke his left femur and 11 ribs in the accident, speaking from a wheelchair just outside Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J.
His voice breaking with emotion, he added: “I hope the state will forgive me. I will work very hard to set the right kind of example.”
Wearing a red Cooper T-shirt, black track pants and running shoes, Mr. Corzine, 60, spoke for less than a minute and refused to answer questions from reporters. The comments were his first public utterances since the accident, except for telling a photographer for The Associated Press last week that he felt blessed.
Mr. Corzine thanked his doctors at Cooper as well as the emergency medical technicians and helicopter pilots who tended to him immediately following the crash and who met with him Monday before his release. His son Jeffrey pushed the wheelchair and his daughter, Jennifer, walked alongside.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for all the support I’ve been given from people around the state,” said the governor, a Democrat who is in his first term.
“I don’t think people realize just how much people care and show their support,” he said. “There is nothing more important in life than those people who care about you all the time in the moments of joy and the moments of pain.”
Mr. Corzine was injured April 12 when his state vehicle crashed on the Garden State Parkway near Atlantic City. At the time of the accident, he was not wearing a seat belt, as state law requires, and the vehicle was exceeding the posted 65 m.p.h. speed limit by more than 25 miles an hour.
He broke 11 ribs, lost half of the blood in his body and also broke his left femur, a clavicle, his sternum and a vertebra in his lower back.
Today, after his brief comments, Mr. Corzine got into a dark GMC Savana van that he purchased in the last few days and had specially modified for his wheelchair. He left the hospital in a six-car caravan that included a black state police Crown Victoria, a Chevrolet Suburban like the one he had been riding in on April 12, a Mercedes station wagon and two other cars.
No one in the motorcade used emergency lights, as his driver had been doing at the time of the accident. They kept to a pace of about 70 miles per hour, even though the posted limit is 55 on the stretch of Interstate 295 that leads to Drumthwacket, the governor’s official mansion in Princeton, where Mr. Corzine will spend the next stage of his recovery.
It remained unclear when the governor might return to his official duties.
Richard J. Codey, the Democratic president of the State Senate, has been serving as acting governor since the crash.
The governor’s brief public appearance after he emerged from the hospital was a carefully stage-managed event. A lectern was brought into the hospital foyer in the late morning, but later taken away, when Mr. Corzine’s aides revealed that the governor would not attempt to walk or stand during his remarks. They said last week that he was able to take a few steps using a walker.
Mr. Corzine’s press staff rebuffed requests from reporters who wanted a chance to ask the governor about his recollections of the crash and his plans to return to work.
The administration did, however, accede to suggestions from some of the two dozen camera crews on hand that they relocate the press conference from its originally planned location, a shady spot just outside the hospital entrance. Photographers argued that the shadows and low light might ruin their shots and make Mr. Corzine appear pallid. So the governor’s aides agreed to set up the press conference 30 feet away, where the shade and sun met.
An X was marked on the pavement with duct tape, and one of the governor’s spokesmen, Andrew Poag, sat in a wheelchair to allow the photographers to adjust their camera settings.
Lori Schaffer, the spokeswoman for Cooper University Hospital, made certain that a banner with the hospital’s name and logo was strategically located in the background.
“He can’t wait to get out,” said Anthony Coley, Mr. Corzine’s communications director. “Just like anyone who’s just spent the last two-and-a-half weeks in the hospital.”
About 100 people gathered to watch the event, including hospital employees, visitors and pedestrians; there were some 25 news cameras on hand to record it.
Anne Theochrides, who works in the marketing department of a physical rehabilitation center across the street, said she had closely followed news accounts of Mr. Corizine’s progress during his time in the hospital and wanted to be there when he left.
“I was hoping he’d go to one of our facilities,” Ms. Theochrides said, “But I guess he wanted to go home to the mansion, where he could do business, too. I hope it works out for him.”
FLORENCE, N.J., April 30 —
The New York Times
John Holusha contributed for this article from New York.