Truck Driver Charged in Tracy Morgan Turnpike Crash
The driver of a tractor trailer that rear ended a mini limo carrying comedian Tracy Morgan on the New Jersey Turnpike on Saturday morning has been charged in the accident.
A truck driver from Georgia was charged with death by auto in connection to the crash, prosecutors said. Middlesex County prosecutors said 35-year-old Kevin Roper, of Jonesboro, also faces four counts of assault by auto stemming from the crash. His bail was set at $50,000, and he was expected to turn himself in later Saturday. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.
Morgan remains hospitalized following the accident on the northbound Turnpike near exit 8A in Cranbury.
New Jersey State Police Sgt. First Class Greg Williams said the tractor-trailer driver apparently failed to notice slow traffic ahead and swerved at the last minute in a vain attempt to avoid a crash. But it smashed into the back of the limo, prompting a chain-reaction crash with a second tractor-trailer, an SUV and two cars.
Williams says two tractor-trailers, a sport utility vehicle and two cars, along with Morgan's limo bus, were involved in the accident.
Walmart President Bill Simon issued a statement that said one of the firm's trucks was involved in the accident. While noting that the crash remains under investigation, Simon said "Walmart will take full responsibility" if authorities determine that the company's truck caused the accident.
"We're praying for the family and friends of the passenger who lost his life in the terrible accident" the statement said. "Our hearts go out to everyone involved and we hope those who were injured get the care that they need and make a full recovery."
"The limo bus is the only vehicle that overturned," Williams told CNN.
Morgan was taken by medical helicopter to Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Brunswick. State Police say James McNair, of Peekskill, New York, a passenger in the limo bus, died in the crash, Williams said. Three others, including Morgan and Morgan's assistant, Jeff Millea, comedian Ardie Fuqua Jr and comic Harris Stanton were in critical condition, Two occupants weren't injured.
Morgan's publicist Lewis Kay says his family is now with him at RWJUH and describes his care as "excellent."
Atlantic Transportation Services tells NBC 10 the limo van was a Mercedes Sprinter with two drivers on board. "Atlantic Transportation Services extends our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to those injured in last night's accident. We also give our sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of the one individual that passed," posted the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware company on its Facebook page.
Comedian Ardie Fuqua posted on his Facebook that he was opening on Friday night for Morgan. He later posted pictures from the show and wrote, "This is what it looks like from the stage to see a standing ovation from 1500 people. Then we traveled back to NYC in style in a luxury Mercedes Sprinter. Road life is a good life!"
Morgan's scheduled appearance at the Fillmore Charlotte in North Carolina on Saturday night has been canceled.
The New Jersey Turnpike reopened shortly after 6 a.m. after being closed between I-195 and #8A in Cranbury.
The 45-year-old New York City native joined "SNL" in 1996 and was on the sketch-comedy program for seven years before leaving to star in "The Tracy Morgan Show" in 2003. That show lasted just one season. In 2006, Morgan found a long-running role on NBC's hit show "30 Rock," which was created by "SNL" co-star Tina Fey. He received an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor for "30 Rock" in 2009.