Truck driver in Tracy Morgan crash hadn’t slept in 24 hours -court papers

Comedian Tracy Morgan arrives at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington in this May 1, 2010 file photo.
RICHARD CLEMENT | REUTERS
Comedian Tracy Morgan arrives at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington in this May 1, 2010 file photo.
Posted June 09, 2014, at 8:25 a.m.
Last modified June 09, 2014, at 8 p.m.

NEW YORK — 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 Monday.

Morgan, best known for his roles on “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live,” remained in critical condition, suffering from a broken leg, nose and ribs, a hospital official said. But Morgan was “more responsive” Sunday, his spokesman 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 into 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, of Peekskill, New York, 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. Stanton was treated at a hospital and released Saturday, 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 said it believes Roper was operating “within the federal hours of service regulations,” according to a statement released by spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan. The company did not respond to a request for Roper’s itinerary.

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, including buses or trucks, 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.

Advocacy groups, including Parents Against Tired Truckers, have called for a tightening of federal laws monitoring how much rest truck and bus drivers are getting.

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