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Wednesday 24 September 2014

Morgan crash trucker 'lacked sleep'

Published 09/06/2014 | 17:17

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Tracy Morgan is expected to remain in hospital for several weeks following a crash on the New Jersey Turnpike (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The Wal-Mart truck driver accused of triggering a crash that critically injured actor and comedian Tracy Morgan and killed another comedian had not slept for more than 24 hours, a criminal complaint said.

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Kevin Roper, 35, is scheduled to face an initial court appearance on Wednesday, a court official said. He remains free after posting 50,000 dollars (£29,769) bond.

Roper has been charged with death by vehicle and four counts of assault by vehicle.

Authorities said the Georgia resident apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead on the New Jersey Turnpike early on Saturday 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 actor and comedian, a former Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock cast member, remained in critical condition early on Monday. Morgan's spokesman, Lewis Kay, said he was "more responsive" on Sunday after having surgery for a broken leg.

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

Kay said Morgan also suffered a broken femur, a broken nose and several broken ribs and is expected to remain in hospital for several weeks. He said Morgan's family is "tremendously overwhelmed and appreciative of the outpouring of love and support from his fans".

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."

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.

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.

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 energised and fuelled cats like Tracy and kept them going on the road," Watkins said.

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