The actor and comedian Tracy Morgan finished a stand-up comedy show in Delaware on Friday night and headed back to New York City with several other comedians. At around 1 a.m., a tractor-trailer slammed into the back of their luxury van, overturning it and setting off a chain reaction that involved four other vehicles.
When emergency workers arrived, Morgan was critically injured, and another comedian, James McNair, was pronounced dead at the scene. Two other comedians and Morgan’s assistant were injured.
Morgan, 45, a former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” cast member, and his assistant, Jeff Millea, 36, were airlifted in a helicopter to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, N.J. On Saturday, Morgan’s publicist said he remained in critical condition.
“His family is now with him and he is receiving excellent care,” the statement said.
The van, a 2012 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, was traveling northbound on the New Jersey Turnpike in Cranbury Township, about 45 miles from New York City, when it was hit early Saturday.
The comedians had just performed at the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino in Dover, Del., in the latest stop on Morgan’s cross-country comedy tour called “Turn It Funny.”
On Saturday evening, the driver of the tractor-trailer, Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Ga., was charged with one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office. Roper was expected to surrender, the office said. His bail was set at $50,000.
The preliminary investigation by state police found that Roper, who was traveling north in the center lane of the highway, failed to observe slow-moving traffic ahead of him, said Sgt. Gregory Williams of the New Jersey State Police.
Roper noticed the traffic at the last minute and tried to swerve, but he still struck the van.
McNair, 62, was a longtime comedian who lived in Peekskill, N.Y. Another comedian, Ardie Fuqua, 43, and Millea remained in critical condition Saturday evening, a hospital spokesman said. A fourth comedian, Harris Stanton, was treated at the hospital and released.
Walmart U.S. confirmed Saturday that one of the company’s trucks was involved in the crash. Photos from the scene showed a Walmart truck with substantial damage on the front.
The company will take full responsibility if it is determined that the Walmart truck caused the accident, the company’s chief executive, Bill Simon, said in a statement.
The bus was operated by Atlantic Transportation Services, based in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
The company said Saturday that the driver of the van had not received life-threatening injuries from the crash.
Many entertainers expressed concern for Morgan on Twitter on Saturday. Steve Martin called Morgan “a real gentleman and hilariously funny.”
Tributes also poured in for McNair, who went by the name Jimmy Mack.