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Deptford officer recovering after crash, surgery

Gary Wurst, 24, was hurt in a Wednesday crash. After surgery, he is listed as critical.

A Deptford police officer seriously injured in a car crash Wednesday night emerged from surgery yesterday but remained in a medically-induced coma, authorities said.

Gary Wurst, 24, was listed in critical but stable condition at Cooper University Hospital in Camden yesterday afternoon.

Wurst's parents and dozens of fellow officers from the 80-member Deptford Police Department swarmed the hospital after the accident, awaiting word from doctors.

"His mom and dad are both here at the hospital and they've been very uplifting for us," said Deptford Police Detective Sgt. George Johnson. "A lot of the time in these situations you're consoling the family, but they've been consoling us."

Johnson said officers were allowed to visit Wurst two at a time after he came out of surgery around 1 p.m. Wurst suffered a broken femur and damage to his pelvis, and doctors were keeping him in a medically induced coma, said Bernie Weisenfeld, a spokesman for the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office.

"We're very optimistic right now," Johnson said.

Wurst was injured around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, about 30 minutes after starting his shift, when a vehicle collided with his police cruiser on Delsea Drive.

At the time of the accident, Wurst was returning to police headquarters to assist an officer who had made an arrest. He was traveling at a normal speed in the southbound lanes, and he was not running his emergency lights, Weisenfeld said.

"Gary's a very knowledgeable young man," Johnson said. "A lot of times, he'll come in and assist the officers so they can get the complaints done and get them back on the street."

A 1996 Ford Explorer, traveling in the northbound lanes of Delsea Drive, was making a left turn into the Brunswick Deptford bowling lanes when it crashed into the driver's side front of Wurst's car.

The impact pushed the cruiser into a tree. Wurst had to be cut from the car, Johnson said. The officer who had made the arrest was traveling behind Wurst and immediately called for help.

The Ford Explorer was driven by Andrea M. Paton, 19, of Sewell. The Gloucester County College student had no passengers. Paton, an all-league high school bowler, was taken to Kennedy Memorial Hospitals-University Medical Center/Washington Township with a broken leg.

Drugs and alcohol did not appear to be involved, and both drivers were wearing their seat belts. Investigators did not know how the accident happened, but Paton was not likely to face anything more serious than a municipal traffic citation, authorities said.

"It just appeared as if it was a miscalculation on the turn," Weisenfeld said. "It wasn't a reckless situation."

The crash closed Delsea Drive for three hours.

The accident happened at the same spot where a Deptford officer, responding to a call, crashed into a 24-year-old pregnant woman on her way to the bowling lanes in 2005, causing her to lose her baby.

Wurst, a four-year veteran of the Deptford force, is not married and has no children, Johnson said.

After his crash, other officers were called on duty so that Wurst's colleagues on the midnight shift could go to the hospital, Johnson said.

"It's a tight-knit group," he said. "Everybody's chipping in."