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NTSB: Driver in Tracy Morgan crash 20 mph over speed limit

Kevin Roper, center, is surrounded by media as Middlesex County Sheriff's officers assist him as he leaves a court appearance Wednesday, June 11 in New Brunswick, N.J. (Associated Press: MEL EVANS)

The Trucker News Services

6/19/2014

WASHINGTON — The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday that the tractor-trailer that crashed into the limo bus that was carrying comedian Tracy Morgan and several others was traveling 20 miles an hour over the posted speed limit for the 60 seconds preceding the crash.

Morgan was critically injured and one passenger was killed when the Walmart Transportation tractor trailer driven by Kevin Roper of Jonesboro, Ga., crashed into the bus limo about 12:54 a.m. June 7 on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The accident occurred in a construction zone where the NTSB said construction contractors were performing work on a large overhead sign about 2.7 miles north of the crash location.

The right and center lanes of the New Jersey Turnpike were closed in the vicinity of the zone. About 0.9 mile south of the crash location, an advance warning sign notified northbound traffic of the lane closure ahead. About 0.4 mile south of the crash location, speed limit signs were posted that reduced the speed from 55 mph to 45 mph, the NTSB said.

The NTSB recounted Roper’s trip in the report.

The panel said the morning before the crash, the 35-year-old Roper, who was driving a Peterbilt combination vehicle, had arrived at a Walmart facility in Smyrna, Delaware, and electronic driver log information showed that he went on duty at 11:22 a.m. on June 6.

The log also showed that the driver made deliveries and pickups in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania throughout the day.

According to his log, about 12:20 a.m. on June 7, 2014, Roper left a Walmart facility near Bristol, Pennsylvania, en route to a facility in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The crash occurred about 30 miles after he left the Pennsylvania facility.

According to electronic driver log information, Roper had logged nine hours 37 minutes of driving time when the crash occurred.

But with respect to the maximum 14-hour consecutive duty period for commercial motor vehicle drivers, the NTSB said Roper had logged 13 hours 32 minutes at the time of the collision. NTSB investigators are comparing the log information with supporting documentation. Additionally, investigators are compiling and analyzing information to determine the activities of Roper and the amount of rest he received in the hours and days preceding the crash.

Investigators said after the initial impact, 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. A total of six vehicles were involved, the NTSB said.

 As a result of the collision, one passenger in the Mercedes-Benz limo van was fatally injured and four other van occupants were transported to the hospital with injuries of various severities. Six vehicles were involved in the impacts, but none of the other 16 people occupying these vehicles were transported to the hospital.

Roper pleaded not guilty to one count of death by auto and four counts of injury by auto on June 11 and remains free on $50,000 bond.

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

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