A Walmart tractor-trailer driver named Kevin Roper of Jonesboro was charged Saturday night for crimes related to him reportedly dozing off and causing a six-vehicle crash early Saturday that severely wounded comedian Tracy Morgan, killed his comedian friend James McNair, and sent three others from Morgan’s entourage to the emergency room.
Roper, 35, was charged late Saturday by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office with one count of death by a vehicle and four counts of assault by a vehicle. Police say Roper fell asleep along a stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike in Cranbury Township, New Jersey, and awoke too late to avoid slamming into the Mercedes limo bus carrying Morgan (below), 45, McNair (above), 63, and the others.
McNair, of Peekskill, New York, was a career comedy writer and comedian who was known to perform as Uncle Jimmy Mack. He was killed on the way to the hospital. Injured along with Morgan: his assistant, Jeff Millea, who was still in critical condition late Saturday; and comedians Harris Stanton and Ardie Fuqua. It is unclear where the comedians were heading on Saturday morning.
The group had just taken part in Morgan’s Turn it Funny stand-up show at the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino in Dover, Delaware, according to MTV. Since 30 Rock‘s final episode aired, Morgan has been focusing again on stand-up comedy, which is said to be a far more sustainable career for someone like Morgan who’s uber-rich.
Morgan’s camp released a statement from the Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock star late on Saturday: “His family is now with him and he is receiving excellent care. We don’t anticipate much of a change in his condition today but will provide a further update once more information becomes available.”
Walmart CEO Bill Simon weighed in with condolences and P.T. Barnum wizardry in a statement to CNN: “This is a tragedy and we are profoundly sorry that one of our trucks was involved. The facts are continuing to unfold. If it’s determined that our truck caused the accident, Walmart will take full responsibility.”
Keith Holloway, a spokesman with the National Transportation Safety Board, said the agency would be looking into “safety issues related to commercial trucking and limousine safety,” which is a broad topic to breach.
Those closer to the star peppered his Twitter feed on Saturday with well-wishes. A litany of comic greats posted their tweets in lieu of flowers. Chris Rock’s love by tweet:
Even in critical condition Tracy Morgan is funnier than you. Pray for Tracy. http://t.co/yUy9lQyq2L
— Chris Rock (@chrisrock) June 7, 2014
[Image courtesy of Wikimedia; YouTube]