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Sunday 21 September 2014

Actor Morgan critical after crash

Published 08/06/2014 | 01:37

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Tracy Morgan joined Saturday Night Live in 1996 and was on the sketch-comedy programme for seven years (AP)

Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan has been critically injured after a tractor-trailer smashed into his chauffeured limousine bus, setting off a chain-reaction crash that left a fellow comedian dead and two others seriously hurt.

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A truck driver Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Georgia, has been charged with death by auto and also faces four counts of assault by auto.

Tracy, 45, the former Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock cast member, was returning from a stand-up comedy show in Delaware when his Mercedes limo bus carrying seven people overturned on the New Jersey Turnpike near Cranbury Township at about 1am yesterday.

James McNair, 62, of Peekskill, New York, a passenger in the limo bus and comedian who performed as Jimmy Mack, died at the scene. Tracy and Jeffrey Millea, 36, of Shelton, Connecticut, were flown from the accident scene to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, where they were in a critical condition.

A fourth passenger, comedian Ardie Fuqua, was also critical, while a fifth passenger, comic Harris Stanton, was treated and released. Two others in the limo were unhurt, including the driver.

Tracy remains in the intensive care unit at the hospital.

"His family is now with him and he is receiving excellent care," spokesman Lewis Kay said. "We don't anticipate much of a change in his condition today but will provide a further update once more information becomes available."

Police said the tractor-trailer driver apparently failed to notice slow traffic ahead and swerved at the last minute in a vain attempt to avoid a crash. But it smashed into the back of the limo, prompting a chain-reaction crash with a second tractor-trailer, an SUV and two cars.

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

Tracy's limo was owned by Atlantic Transportation Services, which said it had one employee behind the wheel and a second in the front passenger seat.

"Although the investigation is still pending, we concur with the preliminary reports that the accident was caused by another vehicle travelling behind the Atlantic limo bus," the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware-based company said. "We are grateful that our drivers did not sustain life-threatening injuries."

Walmart president Bill Simon issued a statement that said one of the firm's trucks was involved in the accident. While noting that the crash remained under investigation, he said "Walmart will take full responsibility" if authorities determined that the company's vehicle caused the accident.

"We're praying for the family and friends of the passenger who lost his life in the terrible accident" the statement said. "Our hearts go out to everyone involved and we hope those who were injured get the care that they need and make a full recovery."

Tracy performed stand-up comedy on Friday night at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. and was due to appear at the Fillmore Charlotte in North Carolina last night.

Ardie had tweeted that he was opening for Tracy on Friday. On his Instagram page he included a collage of photos from the Delaware show.

"This is what it looks like from the stage to see a standing ovation from 1500 people," Ardie wrote at around midnight. "Then we travelled back to NYC in style in a luxury Mercedes Sprinter. Road life is a good life!"

James was a close friend and mentor to Tracy, Tracy'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 Tracy and James, described him 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 energised and fuelled cats like Tracy and kept them going on the road," he said.

Tracy, a New York City native, joined Saturday Night Live in 1996 and was on the sketch-comedy programme for seven years before leaving to star in The Tracy Morgan Show in 2003. That show lasted just one season.

In 2006, he found a long-running role on NBC's hit show 30 Rock, which was created by SNL co-star Tina Fey. He received an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor for 30 Rock in 2009.

Tracy grew up fatherless, one of five siblings, in a blighted section of Brooklyn, where he helped raise and support the family.

He once called his gift for being funny "a defence mechanism" for his miserable circumstances. As a teenager he started doing comedy on the streets to supplement the family's welfare income.

In recent years, he struggled with alcoholism and drink-driving arrests. He had a successful kidney transplant in late 2010.

Tracy's films include Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, The Longest Yard, First Sunday, Rio, and Why Stop Now.

He has three grown sons by a previous marriage and a daughter, Maven Sonae, born last July to his fiancee, Megan Wollover.

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