NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan was critically injured Saturday after a tractor-trailer rammed into his chauffeured limousine bus on the New Jersey Turnpike, setting off a chain-reaction crash that left a fellow comedian dead and two others seriously hurt, authorities said.
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, N.J., also faces four counts of assault by auto. 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.
Mr. Morgan, 45, the former "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" cast member, was returning from a stand-up comedy show in Delaware when his Mercedes limo bus carrying seven people overturned on the New Jersey Turnpike near Cranbury Township at about 1 a.m., state police Sgt. 1st Class Greg Williams said.
James McNair, 62, of Peekskill, N.Y., a passenger in the limo bus who performed as Jimmy Mack, died at the scene, Sgt. Williams said. Mr. Morgan and Jeffrey Millea, 36, of Shelton, Conn., were flown from the accident scene to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, where they were in critical condition, hospital spokesman Peter Haigney said.
A fourth passenger, comedian Ardie Fuqua Jr., was also in critical condition, while a fifth passenger, comic Harris Stanton, was treated and released, Mr. Haigney said. Two others in the limo were unhurt, including the driver.
Mr. Morgan remains in the intensive care unit at the hospital.
Sgt. 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.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was working with state police to look at any issues in the crash related to commercial trucking and limousine safety.
Wal-Mart president Bill Simon issued a statement that said one of the firm's trucks was involved in the accident.
Mr. Morgan, a 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, Mr. 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.
Mr. Morgan grew up fatherless, one of five siblings, in a blighted section of New York City, where he helped raise and support the family.
He once called his gift for being funny "a defense mechanism" for his miserable circumstances. As a teen, he started doing comedy on the streets to supplement the family's welfare income. His tough upbringing informed his humor.
In recent years, he has struggled with alcoholism and drunken-driving arrests. He had a successful kidney transplant in late 2010.