The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report of its investigation into the June 7 truck crash that severely injured celebrity Tracy Morgan, showing the truck driver was traveling well beyond the posted speed limit and appeared to be within legal hours of service.
“A preliminary review of the data showed that the Peterbilt combination vehicle was traveling at 65 mph for the 60 seconds preceding the collision with the Mercedes-Benz limo van,” the report said. “About 0.4 mile south of the crash location, speed limit signs were posted that reduced the speed from 55 mph to 45 mph.”
NTSB said according to electronic driver log information on the truck, driver Kevin Roper had logged 9 hours 37 minutes of driving time when the crash occurred, shortly before 1 a.m. local time, while traveling north on the New Jersey Turnpike near Cranbury.
“With respect to the maximum 14-hour consecutive duty period for commercial motor vehicle drivers, the driver had logged 13 hours 32 minutes at the time of the collision,” the report said. “NTSB investigators are comparing the log information with supporting documentation.”
NTSB investigators are also compiling and analyzing information to determine the activities of the truck driver and the amount of rest he received in the hours and days preceding the crash. In charging Roper, police claim he had not slept in more than 24 hours before the crash, but they have yet to publicly say how they came to that conclusion.
NTSB also determined as the Walmart truck approached milepost 71.4, traffic had slowed due to construction work ahead on the turnpike. It then struck the rear of a 2012 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter limo van, occupied by a driver and six passengers, including Morgan, and James McNair, who was the only person killed.
“The two vehicles moved forward and were involved in secondary impacts with other vehicles that were slowed in the traffic queue. The limo van rolled over and came to rest on its left side, facing east, across the center and right lanes,” said NTSB. “As a result of the collision, one passenger in the Mercedes‑Benz limo van was fatally injured and four other van occupants [including Morgan] were transported to the hospital with injuries of various severities”.
Last week Roper pleaded not guilty to one count of vehicular homicide and four counts of assault by auto. He remains free on $50,000 bail, while his next court appearance has not been scheduled.
Morgan remains hospitalized following the crash and serious injuries he received, but his condition was upgraded this week to fair. Others that were injured have since been treated and released from the hospital.
The crash has led to a national debate about a recent Congressional move just before the crash to change truck driver hours of service regulations, specifically the 34-hour restart provision, with Capitol Hill watchers saying such an attempt now faces a more difficult future. The case also led to a media frenzy, with some claiming the trucking industry was being vilified due to Morgan’s celebrity.