What started as an act of political revenge against a Democratic mayor who failed to endorse Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) turned into a serious safety hazard that crippled emergency response personnel, according to a new report. Christie denied knowing anything about the scheme and said in a written statement on Wednesday that officials within his administration “will be held accountable.”
Evidence emerged on Wednesday that officials within Christie’s administration were directly involved in a plan to close down routes to the nation’s busiest bridge and snarl traffic in an act of retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey.
In newly disclosed emails, officials appeared to show little regard for the real-world impact their stunt would have on local residents — and in fact were seen gloating about inconveniencing schoolchildren because they come from Democratic families. But according to a new report from The Record in Bergen County, due to the traffic caused by the unannounced bridge closures last September, emergency personnel had difficulty responding to at least four medical situations, including one involving a 91-year-old woman who lay unconscious and later died at an area hospital.
Paul Favia, an EMS coordinator for the Borough of Fort Lee, told the paper that emergency response times had doubled in at least two of the incidents in question, with ambulances hampered by abnormally heavy traffic caused by the bridge closures ordered by those within Christie’s administration. Favia made a point not to directly blame the traffic on the elderly woman’s death, but did say that first responders were forced to meet the ambulance en route to the hospital instead of getting treatment at the scene.
On Wednesday afternoon, Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich stopped short of calling the action criminal, but said that the ploy intentionally put his residents’ safety in jeopardy.
“You have intentionally put people in harm’s way,” he told CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer in an interview earlier in the day. “You knew that when Fort Lee called 20, 30, 40 times. You knew that when I kept sending text after text and calling cell phone after cell phone.”
In Wednesday’s release of email and text conversations, Christie appointees within the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are seen discussing Sokolich’s pleas for help and summarily dismissing them, even insulting him by referring to him simply as “Serbia” (Sokolich is Croatian).
The news also contrasts sharply with Christie’s nonchalant response to the scandal. Prior to the statement his office issued today, Christie’s most public remark about the matter came a month ago when he cracked jokes about it to WNYC, the local NPR affiliate in New York City.
The US attorney in New Jersey will open investigation into the lane closures.