After leaving a Delaware stand up comedy show on his Turn it Funny tour, actor and comedian Tracy Morgan was involved in a fatal car wreck that left him in critical condition and killed one of the passengers in Morgan’s limousine. Six vehicles were involved in the crash in the northbound lanes of the New Jersey Turnpike that happened around 1 a.m. ET early Saturday.
Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Georgia, was charged with four counts of assault by auto and one count of death by auto and in the crash that injured Morgan, injured three others, and killed one. The man killed was in Morgan’s limousine, comedian James McNair, 63, or “Jimmy Mack.” McNair was pronounced dead at the scene early Saturday.
Roper, a Walmart employee, was driving a Walmart tractor-trailer when he collided into the back of Morgan’s limousine, according to authorities. The collision caused a chain reaction which ultimately involved six vehicles: Roper’s tractor-trailer, another tractor-trailer, an SUV, two cars, and Morgan’s limousine. Morgan was traveling with Jeffrey Millea, his assistant and comedian Ardie Fuqua, both of whom are in critical condition along with Morgan at Robert Wood Johnson University. Another passenger in the limousine was treated and released with non-life threatening injuries, according to the hospital.
Although the limousine passengers’ identities have not yet been formally released, the hospital says they are treating a patient named Tracy Morgan, who is in critical condition. Roper’s bail was set at $50,000 after turning himself in Saturday night.
Sgt. Gregory Williams of New Jersey State Police said that Roper “failed to observe” the slower moving traffic ahead of him, which resulted in Roper attempting to swerve around Morgan’s limousine, but instead striking it from behind “forcing the limo to rotate and overturn.” The limousine spun clockwise, turned over on its left side, and began colliding with other vehicles.These details are coming out during the preliminary investigation by state police.
Williams said that although under investigation, he did not believe alcohol was involved in the six car wreck that left Morgan in critical condition. Some earlier reports of Roper nodding off at the wheel were refuted by Williams, who said “there is nothing that indicates that.”
Walmart was quick to issue an apology on behalf of their employee who was charged with causing the fatal wreck. “This is a tragedy and we are profoundly sorry … If it’s determined that our truck caused the accident, Walmart will take full responsibility,” said Bill Simmon, Walmart U.S. President and CEO.
Lewis Kay, Morgan’s representative, announced on Saturday “his family is now with him and he is receiving excellent care.” At the Delaware show, Fuqua had posted several photos on Instagram, with one caption reading “Road life is a good life!”
The car wreck that placed Morgan into critical condition closed the Turnpike for more than five hours. Morgan had somewhat recently come off his longstanding role on the acclaimed television series 30 Rock to begin his Turn it Funny tour, which was promptly canceled promising ticket refunds in the near future.
By Jesse Eells-Adams