NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A truck driver accused of triggering a highway crash that injured Tracy Morgan
and killed another comedian hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours before the accident, authorities said
Monday as Morgan recovered in a hospital.
Wal-Mart trucker Kevin Roper is expected to appear in state court Wednesday. It was unclear if Roper, of
Jonesboro, Georgia, had retained an attorney. He remained free after posting $50,000 bond.
Authorities said Roper apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead early Saturday in Cranbury Township
and then swerved to avoid a crash. Instead, they said, his big rig smashed into the back of Morgan’s
chauffeured limo bus, killing comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair and injuring Morgan and three other
The accident occurred in a chronically congested area of the New Jersey Turnpike where a five-year
widening project is expected to finish this year. A turnpike authority spokesman said two of three
northbound lanes had been closed about a mile ahead of the accident for road work, which likely slowed
Spokesman Tom Feeney said turnpike officials haven’t seen an increase in fatal accidents in the
construction area, which stretches about 35 miles.
Morgan, a former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” cast member, was in critical but stable condition
Monday. His spokesman, Lewis Kay, said he faces an “arduous” recovery after surgery on his broken leg.
Morgan suffered a broken femur, a broken nose and several broken ribs and is expected to remain
hospitalized for weeks, Kay said. Morgan’s fiancee was with him at the hospital, he said.
Roper has been charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto. Under New Jersey law, a
person can be charged with assault by auto if he or she causes injury after knowingly operating a
vehicle after being awake for more than 24 hours.
According to the criminal complaint, Roper operated the truck “without having slept for a period in
excess of 24 hours resulting in a motor vehicle accident.” It doesn’t specify the basis for that
The limo bus’ driver, Tyrone Gale, told ABC News he was disoriented after it flipped over.
“I climbed around and heard Tracy screaming for help,” Gale said. “I climbed up on the body of the limo
bus … but I couldn’t reach them.”
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. President Bill Simon said the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company “will take full
responsibility” if authorities determine its truck caused the accident.
Wal-Mart trucks have been involved in 380 crashes in the past two years, federal data show. The crashes
have caused nine deaths and 129 injuries. Wal-Mart has 6,200 trucks and 7,200 drivers, according to the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and they drove 667 million miles last year.
Roper’s truck was equipped with a system designed to slow its speed and notify him of stopped traffic
ahead, a company spokeswoman said. It’s unknown if the system was working.
The National Transportation Safety Board is working with state police to look at any issues in the crash
related to commercial trucking and limousine safety.
Federal regulations permit truck drivers to work up to 14 hours a day, with a maximum of 11 hours behind
the wheel. Drivers must have at least 10 hours off between work shifts to sleep.
Wal-Mart said it believed Roper was operating within federal regulations.
“Safety is the absolute highest priority for Walmart,” it said in an emailed statement.
But safety advocates said they hope the accident will help their case.
“This is part of a systemic problem of having tired people driving at night and driving large trucks,”
said Henry Jasny, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
But Dave Osiecki, vice president of the American Trucking Association, said no regulations can prevent a
driver from making “bad choices.”
Morgan, a New York City native, was returning from a standup performance at Dover Downs Hotel &
Casino in Delaware when the crash occurred. Six vehicles were involved in the pileup, but no one from
the other cars was injured.
McNair, of Peekskill, New York, was a close friend and mentor to Morgan, Morgan’s ex-wife told the New
York Daily News.