The Georgia truck driver accused of causing a crash that killed a man and injured comedian Tracy Morgan and others had been awake at least 24 hours before the fatal collision, according to prosecutors invesitgating the wreck. The information was included in a document known as a criminal complaint that does not detail how this was known.
Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, was charged with vehicular homicide and assault by auto in the Saturday morning crash on the New Jersey Turnpike after allegedly causing it while driving a Walmart truck, according to police. Roper was booked into jail and later posed $50,000 bail.
“It is our belief that Mr. Roper was operating within the federal hours of service regulations,” Walmart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said in a statement. “The details are the subject of the ongoing investigation and we are cooperating fully with the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The investigation is ongoing and unfortunately we can’t comment further on the specifics.
“Federal law requires drivers to work no more than 14 hours for any shift and 11 hours of driving.”
The crash has made national headlines because Morgan, who starred on “Saturday Night Live and on “30 Rock” on television, was critically injured. The collision killed Morgan’s fellow passenger, comedian James McNair, who performed under the name Jimmy Mack.
Roper lives in a small, one-story Clayton County home, address records showed. A car was parked at the home today, but no one answered the door, Channel 2 Action News reported. Roper, who previously lived for several years in the Miami area, has no known criminal history.
Walmart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon released a statement about the crash on Saturday, promising the company will take “full responsibility” if investigators determine the truck caused the crash.
“We can’t change what happened, but we will do what’s right for the family of the victim and the survivors in the days and weeks ahead,” Simon said in the statement posted on the company’s website.
Walmart did not immediately respond today to questions regarding how long Roper had been employed with the company.
Federal regulations permit truck drivers to work up to 14 hours a day, with a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel, The Associated Press reported. The other time is usually devoted to loading and unloading and paperwork. Drivers must have a minimum of 10 hours off between work shifts to sleep and can work a maximum of 60 or 70 hours per week, depending upon the type of company they work for.
Roper has been charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto. Under New Jersey law, to prove both crimes the state has to demonstrate the defendant operated the vehicle recklessly when the injuries or death were caused. He is expected to make a court appearance in New Jersey on Wednesday.
Several media outlets cited a Twitter page believed to be Roper’s that reportedly said “Move or get hit” in the profile. But tweets from that account were protected this afternoon, prohibiting the public from reading much of the profile.
The 45-year-old Morgan remained in critical condition Monday, but was “more responsive” Sunday after having surgery for a broken leg, his spokesman, Lewis Kay, told reporters.
Kay said Morgan suffered a broken femur, a broken nose and several broken ribs and is expected to remain hospitalized for several weeks. He said Morgan’s family is “tremendously overwhelmed and appreciative of the outpouring of love and support from his fans.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.