Authorities: Trucker in Morgan crash hadn't slept

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 10, 2014 at 10:37 am •  Published: June 10, 2014
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NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A truck driver's lack of sleep is being blamed for the highway crash that injured Tracy Morgan and killed another comedian in New Jersey.

As Morgan recovered in a hospital, authorities said Monday that the truck driver who triggered the weekend crash hadn't slept for more than 24 hours before the accident.

Wal-Mart trucker Kevin Roper was expected to appear in state court Wednesday. It was unclear if Roper, of Jonesboro, Georgia, had retained an attorney. He remained free after posting $50,000 bond.

State police on Tuesday released audio recordings from three 911 calls made after the accident. In one, a woman tells the dispatcher: "It's a terrible accident. The car flipped. It's on its side. It's two vehicles and a Wal-Mart truck."

Authorities said Roper apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead early Saturday in Cranbury Township and then swerved to avoid a crash. Instead, they said, his big rig smashed into the back of Morgan's chauffeured limo bus, killing Morgan's close friend and fellow comedian James "Jimmy Mack" McNair and injuring Morgan and three other people.

Roper has been charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto. Under New Jersey law, a person can be charged with assault by auto if he or she causes injury after knowingly operating a vehicle after being awake for more than 24 hours.

According to the criminal complaint, Roper operated the truck "without having slept for a period in excess of 24 hours resulting in a motor vehicle accident." It doesn't specify the basis for that assertion.

The accident occurred in a chronically congested area of the New Jersey Turnpike where a five-year widening project is expected to be finished this year. A turnpike authority spokesman said two of three northbound lanes had been closed about a mile ahead of the accident for road work, which likely slowed traffic.

Spokesman Tom Feeney said turnpike officials haven't seen an increase in fatal accidents in the construction area, which stretches about 35 miles.

Morgan, a former "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" cast member, was in critical but stable condition Monday. His spokesman, Lewis Kay, said he faces an "arduous" recovery after surgery on his broken leg.

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