Former state Senate president and brief New Jersey governor John Bennett is hospitalized in Florida after crashing into a school bus.

The crash occurred on Jan. 14. Bennet was listed Thursday as being in good condition.

The 73-year-old Monmouth County Republican had just started a 10-day vacation, according to his daughter Marin Bellack. He recently became the municipal administrator for the Town of Dover in Morris County.

Fort Meyers police spokeswoman Kristin Capuzzi said Bennett was driving in the right lane of the four-lane, one-way Hanson Street. Polcie said he turned left and drove across all lanes before hitting the side of a school bus carrying about a dozen students.

None of the children were injured, according to Capuzzi.

"We don't know if maybe it was a medical episode that caused it. We really don't know at this point," Capuzzi said.

John Bennett
John Bennett (Marin Bellack)
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Discomfort and pain

Bellack said on Thursday her father was in stable condition at Gulf Coast Medical Center for treatment of eight broken ribs and a punctured lung. Bennett is awake and alert but is uncomfortable and in a lot of pain.

"We are just glad that no one was hurt in the crash. We are focusing on my father's recovery and not the logistics of the crash," Bellack said. "We will continue to work with those who are still gathering information and investigating this unfortunate accident."

The family is hoping he will be released from ICU this weekend.

"We appreciate everyone's prayers and everyone's support. We're trying to take care of our dad. My dad's my best friend," Bellack said. "We're hoping for a speedy recovery. Every day that passes my dad has gotten stronger and stronger. That's why we're very optimistic he will be out of the hospital soon."

(L-R) Former NJ governors Jim Florio, John Bennett, Donald DiFrancesco, John Farmer Jr. and Jim McGreevey
(L-R) Mairin Bellack, former Gov. Jim Florio, former acting Gov. John Bennett, former Gov. Donald DiFrancesco, former NJ Motor Vehicle Commission chief Raymond Martinez and former Gov. Jim McGreevey (Mairin Bellack)
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New Jersey governor for four days

When Gov. Christine Todd Whitman resigned to become the administrator of the EPA under President George W. Bush, Bennett became one of four Senate presidents to fill out Whitman's term before James McGreevey was inaugurated in 2002.

Donald DiFrancesco held the office until his term ended. John Farmer held the office for 90 minutes followed by Bennett, who was acting governor for nearly four days, and Richard Codey for three days.

New Jersey now elects a lieutenant governor, who assumes the leadership position of the executive branch when a governor leaves the state or leaves office.

Bennett was a member of the Assembly from the 11th and 12th Legislative Districts from 1980-1989 and served in the state Senate from 1989 until 2004. He was the Senate president from 2002-2004.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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