Tracy Morgan

Tracy Morgan in 2009. Photo by David Shankbone.

Only days after a U.S. Senate committee voted to weaken a law that bans truck drivers from driving on too-little sleep, an allegedly sleep-deprived driver of a tractor-trailer rammed into a vehicle in which comedian Tracy Morgan was a passenger, critically injuring him and two others, and killing a fourth person, according to news accounts. The tragic crash, a six-vehicle pile-up, “is likely to shine a spotlight” on the Senate Appropriations Committee’s move, on Thursday, to weaken federal safety rules for trucks, as Melissa Jeltsen writes for Huff Post Politics. This blog wrote on Friday about the committee’s intention to relax the law.

As a result of the collision, which happened Saturday night on the New Jersey Turnpike, Morgan, 45, suffered a fractured femur, broken nose, broken ribs, and a broken leg, reported Dan Alexander for New Jersey 101.5. As of Monday morning, Morgan remained in critical condition, at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J. Morgan’s rep, Lewis Kay, said in a statement on Sunday that the comedian “has been more responsive, which is an incredibly encouraging sign,” Alexander writes. Morgan will likely be hospitalized for several weeks, Kay said.

According to 7 ABC, court documents unsealed on Monday reveal that the truck driver, Kevin Roper, of Jonesboro, Georgia, had been driving “without having slept for a period in excess of 24 hours,” Alexander reports, adding:

State Police say Roper apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead early Saturday in Cranbury Township and swerved at the last minute to avoid a crash. Instead, his tractor trailer smashed into the back of Morgan’s chauffeured Mercedes limo bus, killing comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, authorities said.

Roper, 35, who was driving a Walmart truck, will formally be charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto, and will be in court on Wednesday, Alexander writes. Morgan’s assistant, Jeffrey Millea, 36, and comedian Ardie Fuqua Jr., 43, were also critically injured in the crash, and were in critical condition as of Sunday evening, according to 4 New York. Harris Stanton, a comedian who was also a passenger in the limo bus, was treated and released.

Bill Simon, the president of Walmart, issued a statement after the accident saying Walmart “will take full responsibility” if its truck caused the accident, Jeltson notes. The National Transportation Safety Board, which “rarely looks into highway wrecks,” writes Miles Weiss for Bloomberg, said that as in all investigations, “we will look at the work/rest schedule of the drivers,” NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway told Weiss.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment “that would suspend the main federal regulation requiring truckers to take an extended break after reaching weekly time limits,” Weiss writes. In order to become the law, the amendment would need to be adopted by the full Senate and reconciled with the House appropriations bill, Jeltson writes.

Image by David Shankbone

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