Feds probe truck safety after Tracy Morgan crash

Truck driver charged with death by auto in crash that killed comedian 'Jimmy Mack' McNair
Associated Press
Jun 8, 2014

 

Federal investigators on Sunday were looking into commercial trucking and other safety issues in the wake of a deadly chain-reaction crash on the New Jersey Turnpike that left actor-comedian Tracy Morgan and two others critically injured and another man dead.

A Wal-Mart truck driver from Georgia was charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto. Authorities said 35-year-old Kevin Roper, of Jonesboro, apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead early Saturday in Cranbury Township and swerved at the last minute to avoid a crash. Instead, his big rig smashed into the back of Morgan's chauffeured Mercedes limo bus, killing comedian James "Jimmy Mack" McNair, authorities said.

The 45-year-old Morgan, a former "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" cast member, was airlifted to a hospital and remains in critical condition. Also critically injured were Jeffrey Millea, 36, of Shelton, Connecticut, and comedian Ardie Fuqua Jr., 43, of Jersey City, said Zenaida Mendez, a spokeswoman for Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick. Another passenger, comic Harris Stanton, was treated and released.

Tyrone Gale, who was driving the limo bus, told ABC News that he was disoriented after the vehicle flipped over and could hear Morgan yelling for help.

"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."

Roper, accompanied by his attorney, turned himself in to state police. He was released on $50,000 bail Saturday night and has been placed on administrative leave, Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said Sunday.

Wal-Mart President Bill Simon said in a statement that the company "will take full responsibility" if authorities determine its truck caused the accident.

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.

Morgan, a New York City native, was returning from a standup performance at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware when the crash occurred. In all, six vehicles were involved in the pileup, but no one from the other cars was injured.

At a press event Saturday in Los Angeles to promote the upcoming comedy film "Think Like A Man Too," cast members, many of whom have worked and are friends with Morgan, wished him well.

Kevin Hart said he owes much of his success to Morgan, crediting him for paving the way for comics like himself to become successful.

"We just want him to get better and to get back to everyone that loves him and get back to doing what he does best, making people laugh," Hart said.

Fuqua's mother, Doris, said she visited him in the hospital Saturday. The writer-comedian had toured with Morgan for nearly a year, she said, and had opened for him Friday night.

"We're hoping for the best," Doris Fuqua said Sunday, adding that she didn't know how long he may be hospitalized. "It's too early to tell."

McNair, 62, of Peekskill, New York, was a close friend and mentor to Morgan, Morgan's ex-wife, Sabina Morgan, told the New York Daily News. "He was one of the first comedians that took Tracy under his wing," she said. "They were very close."

Royale Watkins, a Los Angeles-based comedian who said he had performed in New York clubs with Morgan and McNair, described McNair as having a big personality.

"There may be guys like Tracy who get the fame and notoriety, but you have people like Jimmy Mack who have kind of energized and fueled cats like Tracy and kept them going on the road," Watkins said.

 

Comments

be for real

It never fails, one accident and the feds are looking into the entire trucking industry for safety concerns.Maybe it is just the fault of this driver and has nothing to do with the trucking industry.When the baby boomers are gone,I wonder how many safe truck drivers there will be on the road then?

From the Grave

Aholes drive like aholes. Probe that.

ladydye_5

There are people in cars, pickups, mini vans that drive like idiots. Do the experts want to probe that? There are semi truck drivers that are courteous. It is NOT about the vehicle, it is about the PERSON driving it. You cannot regulate (fix) STUPID.

ohioengineer

I understand that most long-distance truck drivers are careful and responsible and don't cause accidents. However, this issue is not about them, but rather a government that is so eager to regulate every aspect of our lives (think Big Gulps), yet manages to ignore those areas that do indeed need regulation: like 40 ton monsters that blow by my 2 ton car at 70 mph.

Could it have anything to do with the fact that Teamsters are major contributors to campaign coffers?

OMG.LOL.WT_

I doubt WalMart truckers are Teamsters.

bigrmachine

We have to investigate this tragedy because the damn fool made us laugh....well maybe you. Another reason to put celebrities up on their glorious pedestals to let us worship them through sickness and or health.He broke his leg, not his jaw( total bummer). Get over it , could happen to anyone.