U.S. Safety Board Focuses on Driver Fatigue in Tracy Morgan Crash

By | August 11, 2015

A Wal-Mart Stores Inc. driver who struck a limo van carrying comic Tracy Morgan last year had been awake for 28 hours and worked almost 14 hours at the time of the accident, U.S. investigators found.

The National Transportation Safety Board also found that modifications of the van made it impossible for its occupants to escape until emergency workers arrived at the scene on the New Jersey Turnpike, NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said in a statement Tuesday opening a hearing into the crash.

Morgan, a former star on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock,” suffered multiple facial fractures, a shattered leg and a traumatic brain injury in the June 7, 2014, accident that put him into a coma for two weeks. His friend, comedian James McNair, was killed.

The men’s limousine van was stopped in New Jersey Turnpike traffic when it was struck by a tractor-trailer owned by Wal- Mart, the world’s largest retailer.

“Heavy trucks are involved in nearly one in eight fatal crashes,” Hart said at the hearing. “This alone demands our attention.”

The crash is one of several high-profile accidents that triggered a national debate on truck safety. The NTSB said in January that highway regulators had failed to act on more than 100 trucking-related policy recommendations while fatalities have risen for four straight years.

The Wal-Mart driver, Kevin Roper, was nearing the end of a 14-hour shift, the maximum allowed, when he struck the van, according to the NTSB. Police said Roper had been awake for at least 24 hours. He has pleaded not guilty to death by auto and other charges.

He had commuted nearly 750 miles (1,207 kilometers) from his home in Jonesboro, Georgia, to Smyrna, Delaware, before beginning his shift.

Morgan in May settled a civil lawsuit for an undisclosed amount after claiming Wal-Mart was negligent. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer apologized for its involvement in the crash and said it was “committed to doing what’s right” to all involved.

With assistance from Jeff Plungis in Washington and Shannon Pettypiece in New York.

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