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Feds probe truck safety after Tracy Morgan crash

Limo Driver 'Heard Tracy Screaming For Help' After Crash

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Federal investigators on Sunday were looking into commercial trucking and other safety issues in the wake of a deadly chain-reaction crash on the New Jersey Turnpike that left actor-comedian Tracy Morgan and two others critically injured and another man dead.

A Wal-Mart truck driver from Georgia was charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto. Authorities said 35-year-old Kevin Roper, of Jonesboro, apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead early Saturday in Cranbury Township and swerved at the last minute to avoid a crash. Instead, his big rig smashed into the back of Morgan's chauffeured Mercedes limo bus, killing comedian James "Jimmy Mack" McNair, authorities said.

The 45-year-old Morgan, a former "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" cast member, was airlifted to a hospital and remains in critical condition. Also critically injured were Jeffrey Millea, 36, of Shelton, Connecticut, and comedian Ardie Fuqua Jr., 43, of Jersey City, said Zenaida Mendez, a spokeswoman for Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick. Another passenger, comic Harris Stanton, was treated and released.

Tyrone Gale, who was driving the limo bus, told ABC News that he was disoriented after the vehicle flipped over and could hear Morgan yelling for help.

"I climbed around and heard Tracy screaming for help," Gale said. "I climbed up on the body of the limo bus ... but I couldn't reach them."

Roper, accompanied by his attorney, turned himself in to state police. He was released on $50,000 bail Saturday night and has been placed on administrative leave, Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said Sunday.

Wal-Mart President Bill Simon said in a statement that the company "will take full responsibility" if authorities determine its truck caused the accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board is working with state police to look at any issues in the crash related to commercial trucking and limousine safety.

Morgan, a New York City native, was returning from a standup performance at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware when the crash occurred. In all, six vehicles were involved in the pileup, but no one from the other cars was injured.

At a press event Saturday in Los Angeles to promote the upcoming comedy film "Think Like A Man Too," cast members, many of whom have worked and are friends with Morgan, wished him well.

Kevin Hart said he owes much of his success to Morgan, crediting him for paving the way for comics like himself to become successful.

"We just want him to get better and to get back to everyone that loves him and get back to doing what he does best, making people laugh," Hart said.

Fuqua's mother, Doris, said she visited him in the hospital Saturday. The writer-comedian had toured with Morgan for nearly a year, she said, and had opened for him Friday night.

"We're hoping for the best," Doris Fuqua said Sunday, adding that she didn't know how long he may be hospitalized. "It's too early to tell."

McNair, 62, of Peekskill, New York, was a close friend and mentor to Morgan, Morgan's ex-wife, Sabina Morgan, told the New York Daily News. "He was one of the first comedians that took Tracy under his wing," she said. "They were very close."

Royale Watkins, a Los Angeles-based comedian who said he had performed in New York clubs with Morgan and McNair, described McNair as having a big personality.

"There may be guys like Tracy who get the fame and notoriety, but you have people like Jimmy Mack who have kind of energized and fueled cats like Tracy and kept them going on the road," Watkins said.

Join the discussion

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buknekkid June 08 2014 at 3:03 PM

It's sad that all this attention is given to this accident only because a so-called celebrity was involved. Meanwhile I'm sure thousands of us normal everyday people have been in accidents like this one and it has been a "oh well" routine type of thing. I really hate the catering and pampering of these overpaid over popular people. The rest of us are people too and everyone deserves to be treated as a human being, a life on this planet.

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39 replies
marchesiello5 June 08 2014 at 3:12 PM

I can not believe the truck driver was charged with criminal charges and I can not believe the FBI is involved. I have adjusted many Semi Truck Accident claims and people were killed in the accident but never was the driver charged with criminal, This is tort law not criminal and should be in civil court unless the driver was intoxicated I did not believe he was and have not read or heard on the news that the truck driver was impaired. This should be no more that a wrongful death and personal injury case.

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35 replies
kelmstra June 08 2014 at 3:14 PM

Dont blame the truck driver - could be mechanical failure of the trucks brakes. People are too quick to blame truck drivers yet without these truck drivers you would have no food or anything for that matter.

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8 replies
Pete June 08 2014 at 3:10 PM

Bummer. It seems to me that Wal-Mart drivers are usually very courteous and careful.

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5 replies
f0497 June 08 2014 at 3:18 PM

I travel by auto all over the US for my business and one problem I see with truckers is constant use of cell phones. Years ago most all truckers used CB radios to talk and in doing so they warned each other of problems ahead, so they were prepared for it by the time they got to a certian mile marker. Today, being on a cell phone, they run up on a problem and it's "holy s--- !!!!!!!" and try to stop an 18 wheeler, carrying 80,000 lbs, going 70/75 mph in about 100 ft................it dosent work. This happens daily and people die.

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15 replies
M Fisher June 08 2014 at 3:02 PM

I hope Tracy and the others make a full recovery.

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3 replies
kelmstra June 08 2014 at 3:13 PM

There have been MANY of these limo accidents where people burned and were killed. I think the focus should be on these limos which have become too long and death-traps.

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11 replies
praisejeezus June 08 2014 at 3:59 PM

Oh no - Walmart is going to be sued for millions and millions of dollars, resulting in higher prices for their merchandise. Before you know it their $5.97 tee shirts will be selling for $5.98!

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6 replies
Maribeth June 08 2014 at 3:23 PM

First, I want to send my condolences to the McNair family at this time of loss. Yes, it's true that this horrific accident might well be getting more attention than the typical non-celebrity auto accident. The most important thing is for the survivors to get well quickly, the second thing is to keep highlighting accidents of this nature, the ones where 18 wheel truckers are blasting down the interstates without thought to smaller vehicles and their passengers. I've traveled between Massachusetts and New York for 20 years on I95, let me tell you, these big rigs take your breath away, speeding and cutting other vehicles off at high speeds, this type of driving is not for the faint of heart! I must stop now!

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7 replies
kathleenbrowder June 08 2014 at 4:03 PM

My heart goes out to all, but I still want to know if any in the limo (other than the driver) were wearing seats belts. It reminds me of Princess Diana. It is such a waste. You are in a fast moving vehicle. In case of possible tragedy, save your own life. Put a seat belt on!.

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4 replies
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