Complaint says trucker in Tracy Morgan crash hadn’t slept

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NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A truck driver ac­cused of trig­ger­ing a high­way crash that in­jured Tracy Mor­gan and killed an­other co­me­dian had not slept for more than 24 hours be­fore the ac­ci­dent, au­thor­i­ties said Mon­day, as Mr. Mor­gan re­cov­ered in a hos­pi­tal.

Wal-Mart trucker Kevin Roper is ex­pected to make an ini­tial ap­pear­ance in state court Wed­nes­day. It was un­clear whether Mr. Roper, of Jones­boro, Ga., had re­tained an at­tor­ney. He re­mained free af­ter post­ing $50,000 bond.

Au­thor­i­ties said Mr. 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 Mr. Mor­gan’s chauf­feured limo bus, kill­ing co­me­dian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair and in­jur­ing Mr. Mor­gan and three other peo­ple.

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 traf­fic. Spokes­man Tom Feeney said turn­pike of­fi­cials ha­ven’t seen an in­crease in fa­tal ac­ci­dents in the con­struc­tion area, which stretches about 35 miles.

Mr. 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. Mr. Mor­gan suf­fered a bro­ken fe­mur, a bro­ken nose and sev­eral bro­ken ribs and is ex­pected to re­main hos­pi­tal­ized for weeks, Mr. Kay said. Mr. Mor­gan’s fi­an­cee was with him at the hos­pi­tal, he said.

Mr. 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, Mr. 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 as­ser­tion.

The limo bus’ driver, Ty­rone Gale, told ABC News that he was dis­ori­ented af­ter it flipped over. “I climbed around and heard Tracy scream­ing for help,” Mr. Gale said.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Pres­i­dent Bill Si­mon said the Ben­ton­ville, Ark.-based com­pany “will take full re­spon­si­bil­ity” if au­thor­i­ties de­ter­mine that 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.

Mr. 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 is un­known whether the sys­tem was work­ing.

Fed­eral reg­u­la­tions per­mit truck driv­ers to work as much as 14 hours a day, with a max­i­mum of 11 hours be­hind the wheel. The other time is usu­ally de­voted to load­ing and un­load­ing and pa­per­work. Driv­ers must have at least 10 hours off be­tween work shifts to sleep.

United States - North America - Georgia - New Jersey - Tracy Morgan - Wal-Mart Stores Inc - Brunswick - Tom Feeney


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