Tracy Morgan Crash: Feds Side With Comic, Blame Sleep-Deprived Trucker For Fatal Wreck – Update

2ND UPDATE, 9:48 AM: The National Transportation Safety Board has sided with comedian Tracy Morgan in placing the blame for a deadly highway crash squarely on a sleep-deprived Wal-Mart truck driver.

The 2014 accident left comic James “Jimmy Mack” McNair dead and Morgan severely injured after the semi truck smashed into the comics’ limo after cruising up to 20 mph over the speed limit.

Kevin Roper, the Georgia truck driver, who’d been awake for 28 hours, might have prevented the accident by slowing his vehicle to 45 mph, the posted limit along the stretch of New Jersey Turnpike then undergoing construction work. The truck had been traveling at 65 mph, but is thought to have hit Morgan’s limo at 47-53 mph.

In today’s report, the NTSB also noted that Morgan and the other passengers in the limo-van, were not wearing seat belts and had adjusted the vehicle’s headrests, contributing to the severity of injuries.

The truck’s impact set off a chain reaction involving six vehicles. The investigators had previously said that the crash highlighted safety issues involving driver fatigue and truck safety.

“One tragic aspect of roadway deaths is that so often they could have been prevented,” said NTSB Chairman Chris Hart. Roper had driven more than 800 miles from Georgia to a Delaware Wal-Mart distribution center prior to the crash.

McNair of Peekskill, N.Y., was killed instantly. Morgan, who remained in a coma for two weeks, suffered head trauma, a broken leg and broken ribs, and three other limo passengers were injured.

UPDATED, May 28: “Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan will sit down with Matt Lauer in his first television interview since the June 2014 car crash that left him critically injured,” NBC News announced this morning, one day after Morgan reached a settlement with Wal-Mart. ” The exclusive live in-studio interview will air Monday, June 1 on NBC’s Today. Morgan will be joined by his lawyer Benedict Morelli.”

PREVIOUSLY: Almost a year after the New Jersey turnpike crash that left the actor in the hospital and killed his friend and fellow comedian James McNair, the legal battle between Wal-Mart and Tracy Morgan is over. With no details made public, attorneys for the parties have come to a proposed confidential settlement, a filing federal court in the Garden State today revealed. “Wal-Mart did right by me and my family, and for my associates and their families,” said Morgan in a statement Wednesday. “I am grateful that the case was resolved amicably.”

A motion put before the court on Wednesday to seal certain documents referred to “confidential settlement negotiations and the confidential final settlement amounts” between Morgan’s camp and Wal-Mart.

“Our thoughts continue to go out to everyone that was involved in the accident,” said Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Greg Foran in a statement of his own today on the June 8, 2014 crash. The tragic incident saw the limo carrying the 30 Rock alum, McNair and two others struck by a Wal-Mart truck on the highway. McNair was killed almost instantly while Morgan suffered a head injury as well as a broken leg and various broken ribs.

On July 11 last year, Morgan sued the retail giant claiming that they were aware that tractor-trailer driver Kevin Roper had been up for over 24 hours straight when he smashed into their limo after falling asleep at the wheel of his vehicle. Wal-Mart reached a settlement with McNair’s children earlier this year. “While we know there is nothing that can change what happened, Wal-Mart has been committed to doing what’s right to help ensure the well-being of all of those who were impacted by the accident,” added Foran today.

Roper still faces criminal charges from the matter, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

David Sirotkin of NYC firm Morelli Alters Ratner LLP represented Morgan and other plaintiffs in the now seemingly settled matter with Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart Stores and Wal-Mart Transportation were represented by Jeffrey O’Hara and Laura Christine Fedyna of Newark firm LeClair Ryan.


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