Pile-up on turnpike kills one and injures four, including the former "30 Rock" star
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- A truck driver has been charged in a crash on theNew Jersey Turnpike that injured 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan, who was airlifted to a hospital where he was being treated in intensive care.
The comedian was traveling back from a tour date in Dover, Del., early Saturday morning when his chauffeured Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van was caught up in a six-car pileup.
Around 1 a.m., a tractor-trailer driver apparently failed to notice slow traffic ahead and swerved at the last minute in a vain attempt to avoid an accident. But it smashed into the back of Morgan's limo van, overturning it, prompting a chain-reaction crash near Cranbury Township, N.J., that also involved a second tractor-trailer, an SUV and two cars.
Truck driver Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Ga., was charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto in connection to the crash, Middlesex County, N.J., prosecutors said.
Roper surrendered to authorities late Saturday afternoon and was transported to the Middlesex County jail, where he is being held on $50,000 bail.
Morgan, 45, was airlifted to Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in New Brunswick.
"His family is now with him and he is receiving excellent care," his representative, Lewis Kay, said in a statement issued Saturday. "We don't anticipate much of a change in his condition today."
James McNair, of Peekskill, N.Y., a passenger in Morgan's vehicle, died in the crash,Sgt. 1st Class Greg Williams told the Associated Press. In addition to Morgan, two other passengers (including opening act Ardie Fuqua) were in critical condition, and one was listed as fair, he said. The two drivers assigned by Atlantic Transportation Services were not injured.
The limousine company owner, Christopher Thompson, issued a statement Saturday: "Atlantic Transportation Services extends our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to those injured in last night's accident. We also give our sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of the one individual that passed," he said in a written statement. "This is a very difficult time and we appreciate all of the support and well wishes we have received thus far, and we ask that everyone pray for the recovery of those injured. Godspeed to all involved."
Wal-Mart confirmed one of its trucks was involved in the crash. CEO Bill Simon issued a statement expressing concern for those injured and killed.
"This is a tragedy and we are profoundly sorry that one of our trucks was involved," he said. "We are working quickly to understand what happened and are cooperating fully with law enforcement to aid their investigation." He says Wal-Mart will take full responsibility if it is shown its truck caused the accident.
Morgan did a standup comedy gig Friday night at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware and was on his way back to his home in Bergen County, N.J. Saturday night's performance in Charlotte was canceled.
Accident investigation and cleanup kept that section of the road closed until 6:30 a.m.
The Middlesex County prosecutor's office was investigating and planned to release a statement later Saturday.
Morgan joined Saturday Night Live in 1996 and was on the sketch-comedy program for seven years before leaving to star in The Tracy Morgan Show in 2003. That show lasted just one season. In 2006, Morgan found a long-running role in NBC's hit show30 Rock, which was created by SNL co-star Tina Fey.
Morgan 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 defense mechanism" for his miserable circumstances.
As a teen he started doing comedy on the streets to supplement the family's welfare income.
In late 2010, Morgan had a kidney transplant.
Morgan and his fiancee, Megan Wollover, welcomed their first child in July.
Contributing: The Associated Press