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Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate, zookeeper Joe Exotic injured in Garvin County crash

OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate and exotic animal zookeeper is in an Oklahoma City hospital after a two-vehicle crash Tuesday afternoon in Garvin County.

Joseph Maldonado Passage, 54, is listed in good condition at OU Medical Center with multiple fractures, according to Greater Wynnewood Animal Park and hospital officials.

According to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Maldonado Passage - better known locally as Joe Exotic - was involved in a crash on State Highway 29, west of Wynnewood, shortly before 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Investigators say a pickup truck, driven by Maldonado Passage, was northbound on a county road when it failed to yield from a stop sign and was struck by a westbound pickup truck, driven by an Elmore City man.

The driver of the second vehicle, Dwight Jones, 73, refused treatment at the scene; passenger Ronald Skinner, also 73, was not injured. Maldonado Passage was transported by EMSA to OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City with head, internal and external injuries, and leg trauma.

When reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, a zoo employee told News 4 Maldonado Passage suffered a broken shoulder blade, fractured right femur and two fractured vertebrae in the crash, and would not comment further.

Wynnewood Fire and Police assisted with the crash.

Maldonado, a Libertarian candidate for governor, has made headlines for years in the state for his political aspirations and ownership of the exotic animal farm in Wynnewood. He also filed as an Independent candidate for president in 2015.

Most recently, he remarried after his husband, Travis Maldonado, was found dead at the zoo of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound last fall.

Garvin County Deputies responded to the zoo on October 6, 2017 for a 911 call reporting a man had shot himself in the head inside a park office. Travis Maldonado, 23, was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities said at the time his death was believed to be a fatal gunshot wound to the head. A .45 caliber handgun was recovered at the scene, however the sheriff said firearms are routinely carried by zoo employees.

The zoo was open at the time, but visitors weren't nearby when the shooting occurred. Officials said another employee was present when Maldonado shot himself.

According to online court records, Maldonado Passage married Dillon Passage early last month.

"We appreciate all of your concerns and prayers. Joe is doing fine, he's pretty banged up but we will make it through this," wrote Dillon in a post on Maldonado Passage's personal Facebook page Wednesday afternoon. "Joe says thank you to everyone and that he is still very much alive."

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with his medical bills.