updated 4/20/2007 6:16:26 PM ET 2007-04-20T22:16:26

Gov. Jon S. Corzine was breathing on his own again Friday after doctors removed a breathing tube he'd been using since he was critically injured in an April 12 high-speed crash, his spokesman said.

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Doctors removed the breathing tube shortly before 12:30 p.m. Friday, spokesman Anthony Coley said.

Breathing unassisted moves Corzine closer to having his condition upgraded. He has been listed as critical but stable since he was brought to Cooper University Hospital last week.

Corzine broke a leg and several bones in his chest, including 11 ribs, when the sport utility vehicle he was riding in wrecked on the Garden State Parkway north of Atlantic City. He was placed on a ventilator to ease the pain of breathing, doctors said.

The SUV, driven by a state trooper with Corzine in the front passenger seat, was traveling 91 mph and the governor was not wearing his seat belt, officials have said.

Corzine was able to speak when he arrived at the hospital, before the breathing tube was inserted. Once on the ventilator, the 60-year-old former investment banker could not speak but was able to communicate by nodding, doctors said.

Though breathing on his own is a major milestone, it was not immediately clear when Corzine would be able to resume his official duties. Doctors said it could take six months before he's able to walk without a cane or walker.  State Sen. President Richard J. Codey, also a Democrat, is serving as acting governor.

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