Police: Driver charged in Tracy Morgan crash was awake 24 hours

Updated 8:11 PM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014

Story highlights

NEW: Walmart says it believes truck driver complied with federal driving regulations

Tracy Morgan is still in critical but stable condition

Comedian James McNair, also known as "Jimmy Mack," died in the crash

Four other vehicles were involved in the crash

(CNN) —  

A truck driver charged in a weekend crash that killed a man and injured comedian Tracy Morgan and others in New Jersey was awake for more than 24 consecutive hours before the incident, a criminal complaint filed in the case says.

Kevin Roper, 35, is charged with vehicular homicide and assault by auto in the Saturday morning crash on the New Jersey Turnpike.

A Walmart spokeswoman issued a news release that said it was investigating the case.

“With regards to news reports that suggest Mr. Roper was working for 24 hours, it is our belief that Mr. Roper was operating within the federal hours of service regulations,” Brooke Buchanan said in a written statement, referring to limits of 11 hours driving in a 14-hour period followed by 10 hours of rest.

The wreck took place about 1 a.m. Saturday when the limo bus Morgan was in was hit by a tractor-trailer on the New Jersey Turnpike, police said.

The collision killed Morgan’s fellow passenger, comedian James McNair, who performed under the name Jimmy Mack.

McNair’s sister, Valerie Daniel, said he will be buried in a private ceremony on Thursday in Peekskill, New York.

Comedians Ardie Fuqua and Harris Stanton were among the injured, as was a man named Jeffrey Millea.

Tracy Morgan remained in critical condition Sunday but appeared to show signs of improvement after a car wreck a day earlier that killed another passenger, the comedian’s publicist said.

“He has been more responsive today, which is an incredibly encouraging sign,” Lewis Kay said.

Morgan’s injuries

Morgan suffered several injuries, including broken ribs, a broken nose, a broken leg and a broken femur. He underwent surgery on his leg on Sunday, Kay said, noting any road to recovery would be a long one.

Kay said Morgan underwent surgery on his leg on Sunday.

“We expect him to remain in the hospital for several weeks,” he said.

The truck driver

Truck driver Kevin Roper, 35, was charged with one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto.
Truck driver Kevin Roper, 35, was charged with one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto.
PHOTO: From New Jersey State Police

The truck driver charged in the crash has turned himself in, police said Sunday.

Roper was a driver for Walmart.

“This is a tragedy, and we are profoundly sorry that one of our trucks was involved,” Bill Simon, president and CEO of Walmart U.S., said in a statement.

“The facts are continuing to unfold. If it’s determined that our truck caused the accident, Walmart will take full responsibility.”

Chain-reaction crash

The wreck occurred about 1 a.m. ET Saturday on the turnpike in Mercer County, Williams said.

“The driver of the tractor-trailer failed to observe slow-moving traffic ahead,” Williams said. “At the last minute, he swerved to try and avoid the Mercedes limo bus but struck it from behind, forcing the limo to rotate and overturn.”

Four other vehicles were involved in the crash, the prosecutor’s office said, but no one in those vehicles was injured.

Williams said he does not believe alcohol played a role in the crash, but that is under investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate “safety issues related to commercial trucking and limousine safety,” said agency spokesman Keith Holloway.

“All I know is I saw traffic … and I stopped … and I was upside down and in the vehicle,” limo driver Tyrone Gale told WCAU.

Gale suffered bruises in the crash, WCAU reported.

Christopher Thompson, the co-owner of Atlantic Transportation Services, which was operating the limo bus, said he thought the bus was heading to drop Morgan off in New Jersey.

From SNL to 30 Rock’

Morgan, 45, was a regular on “Saturday Night Live” for seven years. He later received an Emmy nomination for his role in “30 Rock,” in which he played Tracy Jordan, an exaggerated version of himself.

The New York City native made his reputation with over-the-top characters and impressions of celebrities such as Mike Tyson and Oprah Winfrey.

Seth Meyers told CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” that Morgan was a veteran of the “Saturday Night Live” cast when he joined in 2001.

Morgan “always looked out for me … so yeah I’m definitely thinking of him now,” said Meyers, now the host of “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

Morgan performed a comedy tour act Friday night at the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Dover, Delaware, the venue said.

The actor received messages of support and concern on Twitter.

Funny man Tracy Morgan has known fame and foibles

CNN’s Ralph Ellis, Holly Yan, Alexa Miranda, Suzanne Presto, Chris Welch, Faith Karimi, Rachel Wells, Carma Hassan, Joe Sutton, Alexandra Field and Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report.