NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan remains in critical condition but has been more responsive, his publicist said in a statement Sunday.
The former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock”star was returning from a standup show in Delaware early Saturday with six others when a tractor-trailer rammed into the limo bus they were traveling in and overturned on the New Jersey Turnpike near Cranberry Township, killing Morgan’s mentor and fellow comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair.
According to Lewis Kay, Morgan’s publicist, the comedian suffered a broken leg, broken nose and several broken ribs. Morgan had surgery on his leg Sunday and is expected to remain hospitalized for several weeks, Kay said.
“His family is tremendously overwhelmed and appreciative of the outpouring of love and support from his fans,” Kay said.
Federal investigators on Sunday were looking into commercial trucking and other safety issues in the wake of the crash.
Jeffrey Millea, of Shelton, Connecticut, and comedian Ardie Fuqua Jr. were listed in critical condition along with Morgan at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, hospital spokeswoman Zenaida Mendez said Sunday. Another comedian, Harris Stanton, was treated and released from the hospital Saturday.
A Wal-Mart truck driver from Georgia was charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto, CBS 2’s Don Champion reported.
The truck driver, 35-year-old Kevin Roper, of Jonesboro, Georgia, apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead and swerved at the last minute to avoid a crash, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office said.
Instead, the big rig smashed into the back of the Mercedes limo bus, prompting a chain-reaction crash with a second tractor-trailer, an SUV and two cars, authorities said. No one in the other vehicles was injured.
So far, there is nothing to suggest Roper fell asleep or was dozing, state police Sgt. 1st Class Greg Williams told The Associated Press.
Roper, accompanied by his attorney, turned himself in to state police. He was released on $50,000 bail Saturday night and has been placed on administrative leave, Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said Sunday.
The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said it is expecting a court appearance for Roper to be scheduled for Monday.
Wal-Mart President Bill Simon said in a statement that one of the company’s trucks was involved and that the company “will take full responsibility” if authorities determine its truck caused the accident.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was working with state police to look at any issues in the crash related to commercial trucking and limousine safety.
Morgan’s limo was owned by Atlantic Transportation Services, which said it had one employee behind the wheel and a second in the front passenger seat. Neither was injured.
“Although the investigation is still pending, we concur with the preliminary reports that the accident was caused by another vehicle traveling behind the Atlantic limo bus,” the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware-based company said.
Fuqua had tweeted that he was opening for Morgan on Friday night at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware. On his Instagram page, Fuqua included a collage of photos from the show.
“This is what it looks like from the stage to see a standing ovation from 1500 people,” Fuqua wrote at around midnight Friday. “Then we traveled back to NYC in style in a luxury Mercedes Sprinter. Road life is a good life!”
“I’m just sad,” a man told reporters outside the hospital on Saturday. “A lot of my friends was in that car, man.”
Fuqua’s mother, Doris, said she visited him in the hospital Saturday. The writer-comedian had toured with Morgan for nearly a year, she said.
“We’re hoping for the best,” Doris Fuqua said, adding that she didn’t know how long he may be hospitalized. “It’s too early to tell.”
McNair, 62, of Peekskill, New York, was a close friend and mentor to Morgan, Morgan’s ex-wife, Sabina Morgan, told the New York Daily News. “He was one of the first comedians that took Tracy under his wing,” she said. “They were very close.”
Royale Watkins, a Los Angeles-based comedian who said he had performed in New York clubs with Morgan and McNair, described McNair as having a big personality.
“There may be guys like Tracy who get the fame and notoriety, but you have people like Jimmy Mack who have kind of energized and fueled cats like Tracy and kept them going on the road,” Watkins said.
Morgan, a New York City native, joined “SNL” in 1996 and left to star in “The Tracy Morgan Show” in 2003. That show lasted just one season. In 2006, Morgan found a long-running role on NBC’s hit show “30 Rock,” which was created by “SNL” co-star Tina Fey. He received an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor for “30 Rock” in 2009.
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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