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Mississippi Governor's Condition Upgraded to Serious

November 07, 1996

JACKSON, Miss. — Gov. Kirk Fordice was in intensive care Wednesday, recovering from serious injuries after his Jeep ran off a highway as he drove alone several miles behind his official escort.

The state troopers assigned to accompany him were unaware of the wreck until they were notified by radio, officials acknowledged.

Fordice, 62, was in serious condition--upgraded from critical--at University of Mississippi Medical Center with bruises to his heart, lung and liver. He also had fractured ribs, a broken shoulder, a collapsed left lung, a severely lacerated ear and other cuts.

The governor's 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee ran off Interstate 55 about 15 miles north of Grenada, rolled several times and caught fire about dusk Tuesday, trapping him in the wreckage. Grenada is 105 miles north of Jackson.

Fordice, a conservative Republican in the first year of his second term, remained on a ventilator to assist his breathing. His attending physician, Dr. Keith Thomae, estimated that he would be hospitalized for at least two weeks "if everything went perfect."

"He's conscious enough to know that family members are at the bedside," Thomae said.

Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove became acting governor.

The cause of the wreck remained under investigation. The weather was clear and the hospital said there was no evidence of alcohol use.

Travelers who stopped to help had to tear a door off, clear away Fordice's deployed air bag and cut through a seat belt to free him.

Doctors do not believe Fordice suffered a heart attack before the wreck, Thomae said. Fordice was en route to a GOP election celebration.

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