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Christie bridge controversy: Traffic snarl delayed EMS, official says

By Stephanie Kotuby and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 2:08 PM EST, Thu January 9, 2014
  • Fort Lee's EMS coordinator says traffic jams delayed response times in medical emergencies
  • In one instance, he says, a woman was having a heart attack
  • E-mails have surfaced implying that Gov. Chris Christie's appointees orchestrated traffic gridlock
  • Christie says he was "misled" and knew nothing about what transpired

(CNN) -- Rescuers faced delays during medical emergencies because of traffic jams that appear to be tied to a political scandal engulfing former appointees of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, according to a letter obtained by CNN Wednesday.

Ambulances and paramedics in Fort Lee, New Jersey, got stuck in gridlock caused by a "new traffic pattern" on the George Washington Bridge in September, EMS Coordinator Paul E. Favia wrote in a letter to the town's mayor.

It's the latest twist in a political controversy that erupted Wednesday, when e-mails surfaced implying that members of Christie's staff had deliberately orchestrated lane closures that caused heavy traffic backups on the nation's busiest bridge as political punishment for Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who did not back the New Jersey governor's re-election.

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Favia's letter -- dated September 10, 2013 -- suggests that what started as a local political fight could have had real life-or-death consequences.

In the letter, which does not mention Christie or his administration, Favia said a police officer had told him traffic snarls in Fort Lee were caused by "a new traffic pattern at the (bridge's) toll booths."

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"I would like to bring this to your attention as this new traffic pattern is causing unnecessary delays for emergency services to arrive on scene for medical emergencies within the borough," he wrote.

Favia asked for the mayor's help in changing the traffic pattern to avoid delayed response times. He listed several examples of delays, including car wrecks, chest pains and a 91-year-old who suffered a heart attack.

Christie says he was misled over bridge firestorm

In one instance, the EMS director said he was forced to jump a curb to escape traffic that was at a standstill while he was responding to a car accident with multiple injuries.

Trips that should have taken just a few minutes took up to three times longer, he wrote.

Christie said in a statement Wednesday that "what I've seen today is unacceptable," adding that he was "misled by a member of his staff" and knew nothing about what had transpired. He previously said he knew nothing about allegations of political retribution.

His administration earlier had blamed the lane closures and traffic mess on a mishandled traffic study.

Fort Lee Mayor: Bridge closings venomous

CNN's Don Lemon and Joe Johns contributed to this report.

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