The Wal-Mart Stores truck driver charged in the fatal crash that injured comedian Tracy Morgan was traveling 65 mph in a construction zone where traffic had slowed, according to a preliminary report federal investigators released today.
The truck traveled at 65 mph for a minute—in a zone where the speed limit had been reduced to 45 mph—before impact early on June 7, according to data collected from the 2011 Peterbilt truck’s engine, the National Transportation Safety Board said in its report. Sensors on the Cummins ISX engine record speed, engine revolutions per minute, brake circuit status, and other data.
The crash originally raised questions about how much rest truckers need and whether the current rules are adequate. The driver, Kevin Roper, 35, was within the limits: He had logged 9 hours and 37 minutes of driving time in his shift prior to the crash, and had logged 13 hours and 32 minutes of duty time, less than the maximum 14-hour duty period for commercial drivers.
Roper has been charged with vehicular homicide, assault, and reckless driving. Regardless of how long he had been driving, authorities in New Jersey say Roper had not slept for more than 24 hours at the time of the accident; he has pleaded not guilty. Walmart suspended Roper pending the outcome of the crash investigation.
The Walmart truck plowed into the back of a Mercedes-Benz bus limousine carrying Morgan and other comedians returning to New York from a show in Delaware. James “Jimmy Mack” McNair, 62, of Peekskill, N.Y., was killed in the crash; Morgan suffered several broken bones and remains in a New Jersey hospital in fair condition, according to media reports. Five other vehicles were struck in the crash. Contractors were working on a large overhead sign 2.7 miles north of the crash site, and two lanes of Interstate 95 had been closed south of the sign project, causing traffic to slow to a near stop, NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said today.