By Dow Jones Business News,
June 19, 2014, 12:55:00 PM EDT
NEWARK, N.J.--The driver of a tractor-trailer truck that plowed into a limousine van carrying comedian Tracy Morgan
and several friends, killing one person and severely injuring Morgan and two others, was speeding in the final moments
before the crash, according to a preliminary report released on Thursday.
Wal-Mart driver Kevin Roper was going 65 mph in a 45 mph zone just before the June 7 crash on the northbound New
Jersey Turnpike, according to the National Transportation Safety Board's report. The crash killed 62-year-old James
McNair of Peekskill, N.Y..
The NTSB used the truck's electronic engine-control system to calculate how fast Mr. Roper was driving. "A
preliminary review of the data showed that the Peterbilt combination vehicle was traveling at 65 mph for the 60 seconds
preceding the collision with the Mercedes-Benz limo van," the report concluded.
Traffic was slowed by construction that blocked two of the highway's three lanes. According to the NTSB report, a
sign warned of the lane closures about a mile south of where the accident occurred, and another sign a half-mile closer
directed motorists to reduce their speed from 55 mph to 45 mph.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. trucks are equipped with devices that limit the vehicles' speed to 65 mph, a spokeswoman said,
so Mr. Roper, who was driving for the retailer, was going at the top speed possible.
Drivers are required to follow the posted speed limit under Wal-Mart policy, spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said on
"Of course we expect our drivers to comply with the laws, whether it's a speed limit, or (something else)," she
said. "We don't condone speeding."
She otherwise declined to comment on the report, citing the continuing investigation.
The truck struck Morgan's limo from behind, sending it into other vehicles and eventually onto its side. Morgan is
hospitalized in fair condition with a broken leg and other injuries.
Mr. Morgan's assistant, Jeffrey Millea, of Shelton, Connecticut, has also been upgraded to fair condition,
according to Mr. Morgan's spokesman. Hospital officials said Monday that comedian Ardie Fuqua, of Jersey City, remains
in critical condition.
Mr. Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Georgia, has pleaded not guilty to death by auto and assault by auto charges. A
criminal complaint accuses him of not sleeping for more than 24 hours before the crash, a violation of New Jersey law.
The NTSB report said investigators were still probing Mr. Roper's activities in the days leading up to the crash to
determine the amount of rest he received.
It concluded that Mr. Roper left a Wal-Mart facility in Smyrna, Delaware, at about 11:30 a.m. local time on June 6
and made stops in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania during the day. Just after midnight on June 7 he left Bristol,
Pennsylvania, en route to Perth Amboy, New Jersey, when the crash occurred about 30 minutes into his trip.
The timetable appears to show Mr. Roper wasn't in violation of federal rules that permit truck drivers to work up
to 14 hours a day, with a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel. He had been on duty about 13 1/2 hours at the time of
the accident, according to the report.
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