Truck driver in Tracy Morgan crash hadn't slept in 24 hours: Court papers

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 08, 2014 9:52 AM

By Bruce Konviser and David Jones

NEW BRUNSWICK N.J. (Reuters) - A truck driver charged in the New Jersey crash that killed one man and critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan had not slept in more than 24 hours, according to a criminal complaint filed on Monday.

Morgan, best known for his roles on "30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live," remained in critical condition but stable condition, recovering from a broken leg, ribs and nose, his spokesman Lewis Kay said in a statement Monday.

"His fiancée Megan is by his side. This recovery will be arduous," the statement said.

Two other passengers in the van were also in critical condition at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey, said spokeswoman Zenaida Mendez.

The driver of the tractor trailer, Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Georgia, has been charged with one count of vehicular homicide and three counts of injury by auto, according to a criminal complaint filed in Middlesex County Court.

Roper was operating a truck "on the New Jersey Turnpike without having slept in excess of 24 hours," a criminal violation of New Jersey state law, the complaint said. He is expected to make his first court appearance on Wednesday.

State police said Roper failed to see traffic slowing in front of him on the turnpike near Cranbury Township, slamming the limo bus carrying Morgan, 45, and several other comics and friends after a performance in Delaware.

The impact flipped the Mercedes limo on its roof and caused a chain-reaction crash involving four other vehicles.

Comic James McNair, 62, who performed under the name "Jimmy Mack," died at the scene, said New Jersey State Police.

Morgan and three other passengers, comics Ardie Fuqua and Harris Stanton, and Morgan's assistant, Jeffrey Millea, were injured, state police said.

Roper, a Wal-Mart employee, who was driving a company truck at the time of the crash, has obtained a lawyer, the company said. He was unhurt in the crash.

Wal-Mart did not respond to a request for Roper's itinerary and company policy regarding rest for drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said drowsy driving, or driving with too little sleep, causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths.

Operators of commercial vehicles are restricted to driving a maximum of 11 hours a day after spending a minimum of 10 hours off duty, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

(Additional reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in New York; Editing by Steve Gorman and Clarence Fernandez)