Police Say Wal-Mart Truck Driver Went 24 Hours Without Sleep Before Morgan Crash
A Wal-Mart Stores Inc. truck driver went at least 24 hours without sleep before his tractor-trailer crashed into a limousine, critically injuring actor-comedian Tracy Morgan and killing another entertainer, according to a police complaint.
Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Georgia, drove “without having slept for a period in excess of 24 hours” before the six-vehicle accident on June 7 at 1 a.m. ET Saturday on the New Jersey Turnpike, according to a complaint released June 9.
Roper, who is free on $50,000 bail, is charged with death by auto and assault in the complaint filed in Cranbury Township, New Jersey. The complaint, signed by a New Jersey state trooper, didn’t specify how police knew about Roper’s sleepless state. Roper is scheduled to make his first court appearance on June 9.
The accident may make it more complicated for U.S. lawmakers who are considering an end to federal rules designed to help prevent long-haul truck drivers from dozing at the wheel.
Bill Simon, president of Wal-Mart U.S., apologized for the accident and said the company is cooperating with law enforcement. Wal-Mart U.S. is a unit of Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retail chain, with about $476 billion of revenue in the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31.
“With regards to news reports that suggest Mr. Roper was working for 24 hours, it is our belief that Mr. Roper was operating within the federal hours of service regulations. 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,” Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said in a statement.
Roper “failed to observe” slow-moving traffic ahead of him until it was too late, colliding with the limousine, said Gregory Williams, a sergeant first class with the New Jersey State Police. The limousine van, a 2012 Mercedes Sprinter, spun and then flipped over, Williams said.
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