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Trucker involved in Tracy Morgan wreck speaks out via Twitter

Truck driver Kevin Roper of Jonesboro, Ga., has been charged with one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto. (Associated Press)

The Trucker News Services

6/10/2014

Kevin Roper, the trucker behind the wheel of a Walmart tractor-trailer that killed one person and critically injured comedian/actor Tracy Morgan on Saturday, has spoken out about the crash via his Twitter account [Tweets left as they were written].

Roper, who media sources believe to have the Twitter handle @Kevinmoneytalks, had his first tweet at 9:06 p.m. June 7, hours after the 1 a.m. accident which appeared to come from someone within his family: “my daddy is sorry for what happened please forgive him @RealTracyMorgan we watch martin all the time with hustleman is our favorite.”

The tweet referred to a 1990s Fox TV show “Martin” where Morgan played the character Hustle Man.

Starting at 1:59 a.m. Monday, Roper released a series of tweets adamantly denying he told anyone that he was awake 24 hours prior to the crash.

“My statement on the unfortunate accident that happened Saturday: First off my prayers go out to all the families that were affected,” Roper’s tweets began, and are as follows (quotes indicate new tweet): 

“my prayers to the man that passed away during the accident (Mr McNair) i wish it was me and i can't express how horrible i feel

“As for the accident i have some things to get off my chest that the media and police have neglected to report. First off i never said i was

“awake for 24 hours, not once did i say that to any law enforcement or media person. These are lies being spread because they are pressured

“to make an arrest as this accident was being covered ‘NATIONALLY’ because a famous person was involved.

“Once again the accident was horrific and we lost a precious life, but please remember i was not drunk, high, (I was tested and passed)

“under any influence of any drug or alcohol, i had an ‘ACCIDENT’ which unfortunately occurred with a lot of media spotlight.

“If my ACCIDENT occurs with no media spotlight i am issued a few traffic tickets. The excuse of me being up 24 hours is complete BS!

“I was never charged at the scene of the accident because once again i was not guilty of any crime. Not until all the TV cameras came

“did the police all of a sudden make a determination i was up 24 hours (sounds good and sells papers) also covers their ass

“So yes i am now most likely fu*ked because i had an unfortunate ACCIDENT with the wrong car that night,” concluded Roper’s Twitter statement.

Since then, Roper has not released anymore tweets, but has retweeted two individuals who offered their support Monday afternoon:

“Retweeted by Kevin Roper

twiterer @expblast 

@Kevinmoneytalks I support you. Obviously no one in this world has ever had an accident or done anything wrong. Let the witch hunt begin.

Retweeted by Kevin Roper

M.A. Brown @lilswissmist 

@Kevinmoneytalks so sorry u r being screwed over by the press by not posting both sides of what happened. Just read NYDN & story is biased.”

Authorities will not say how they came to know that Roper had been awake 24 hours prior to the accident.

Officials said that information was part of the ongoing investigation and therefore they could reveal no details about what they had learned from Roper, the Walmart Transportation driver from Jonesboro, Ga., or from any other data sources such as the driver’s Record of Duty Status.

Walmart officials say they believe Roper was operating within the federal standards that allow for 11 hours driving time with a 14-hour on-duty window.

Roper is expected to appear in state court Wednesday. He remained free after posting $50,000 bond.

Authorities said Roper apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead early Saturday in Cranbury Township and then swerved to avoid a crash. Instead, they said, his big rig smashed into the back of Morgan's chauffeured limo bus, killing comedian James "Jimmy Mack" McNair and injuring Morgan and three other people.

Roper has been charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto. Under New Jersey law, a person can be charged with assault by auto if he or she causes injury after knowingly operating a vehicle after being awake for more than 24 hours.

According to the criminal complaint, Roper operated the truck "without having slept for a period in excess of 24 hours resulting in a motor vehicle accident." It doesn't specify the basis for that assertion.

The truck Roper was driving had a collision mitigation system designed to slow the truck’s speed and alert the driver to stopped traffic, the Associated Press reported.

The company has been putting the safety systems — which include forward-looking radar and interactive cruise control — on its trucks since 2010. It was unclear whether that system was working at the time of the crash early Saturday in New Jersey, a Walmart official said.

The accident occurred in a chronically congested area of the New Jersey Turnpike where a five-year widening project is expected to finish this year. A turnpike authority spokesman said two of three northbound lanes had been closed about a mile ahead of the accident for road work, which likely slowed traffic.

Spokesman Tom Feeney said turnpike officials haven't seen an increase in fatal accidents in the construction area, which stretches about 35 miles.

Morgan, a former "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" cast member, was in critical but stable condition Monday. His spokesman, Lewis Kay, said he faces an "arduous" recovery after surgery on his broken leg.

Morgan suffered a broken femur, a broken nose and several broken ribs and is expected to remain hospitalized for weeks, Kay said. Morgan's fiancee was with him at the hospital, he said.

Walmart President Bill Simon said the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company "will take full responsibility" if authorities determine its truck caused the accident.

Wal-Mart trucks have been involved in 380 crashes in the past two years, federal data show. The crashes have caused nine deaths and 129 injuries. The company has 6,200 trucks and 7,200 drivers, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and they drove 667 million miles last year.

The National Transportation Safety Board is working with state police to look at any issues in the crash related to commercial trucking and limousine safety.

"Safety is the absolute highest priority for Walmart," it said in an emailed statement.

Safety advocates said they hope the accident will help their case.

"This is part of a systemic problem of having tired people driving at night and driving large trucks," said Henry Jasny, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

But Dave Osiecki, vice president of the American Trucking Associations, said no regulations can prevent a driver from making "bad choices."

Aprille Hanson, The Trucker, contributed to the AP article.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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