The highway crash that killed a New Jersey comedian and injuring actor-comedian Tracy Morgan is being blamed on a truck driver's lack of sleep.
Morgan, although in critical condition, is now recovering in a hospital but he will spent weeks in there before making a full recovery. Also authorities said on Monday that the truck driver responsible for the accident has not slept for over 24 hours.
After posting a $50,000 bail bond, Wal-Mart trucker Kevin Roper, of Jonesboro, Georgia, is now out free but he is expected to make a court appearance tomorrow, Wednesday.
According to the police report Roper – who may have been already snoozing – did not slowed down on a traffic intersection, causing his big rig to smash into the back of a limo bus where Morgan and fellow comedian James "Jimmy Mack" McNair plus 3 more passengers were riding in. McNair was killed instantly while Morgan and the other 3 passengers were all in critical condition.
If a person is consciously operating a vehicle despite lack of sleep and causes injury or death in an accident, then that person can be charged with assault by auto under New Jersey law. Roper has been formally charged with four counts of assault by auto as well as death by auto.
Two of three northbound lanes had been closed about a mile away from the accident area according to a turnpike authority spokesman. This slowed traffic down and caused the turnpike to be congested.
Tom Feeney, a spokesperson for the turnpike said that the accident on Monday, which Morgan was involved in was the only fatal accident in the construction area.
Lewis Kay, Morgan’s spokesman, said he faces an "arduous" recovery after surgery on his broken leg, but his condition is stabilizing now. Morgan is known for being a cast member of “30 Rock” and was formerly a regular in the "Saturday Night Live" show.
Kay said that Morgan's fiancee was with him at the hospital and that he suffered a broken femur, a broken nose and several broken ribs as well.
Meanwhile Bill Simon, who is the President of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said that "will take full responsibility" if the police will ultimately conclude that the truck malfunctioned and caused the accident.
According to Wal-Mart’s spokeswoman, Roper’s truck had advanced early warning system (EWS) that automatically slows the speed of the truck in case of traffic ahead. If the EWS failed then it is more likely the cause of the accident than Roper’s lack of sleep.
The National Transportation Safety Board on the other hand is looking at all possibilities to determine the true cause of the accident.
Wal-Mart believed that Roper was operating within federal regulations. Truck drivers are allowed to work up to 14 hours a day but only a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel according to federal regulations. This is to ensure that drivers get enough rest and not snooze while on the road. Wal-Mart said that adhering strictly to federal regulations has always been their highest priority.
Morgan was returning to New York from a standup performance at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware when the crash occurred. Aside from Roper’s truck and Morgan’s limo bus there were 6 other cars that got involved in the traffic accident and multiple injuries were also reported. McNair was a close friend and mentor to Morgan.