NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan was critically injured Saturday after a tractor-trailer rammed into his chauffeured limousine bus, setting off a chain-reaction crash that left a fellow comedian dead and two others seriously hurt, authorities said.
A truck driver from Georgia was charged with death by auto in the crash that killed a man described as a mentor to the former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” cast member as the group traveled home from a standup comedy show in Delaware, officials said.
James McNair, 62, of Peekskill, N.Y., who performed as Jimmy Mack, died after the Mercedes limo bus carrying seven people overturned on the New Jersey Turnpike near Cranbury Township at about 1 a.m., state police Sgt. 1st Class Greg Williams said.
Morgan, 45, and Jeffrey Millea, 36, of Shelton, Conn., were flown from the crash scene to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, where they were in critical condition, hospital spokesman Peter Haigney said.
Morgan remained in the intensive care unit at the hospital Saturday night and spokesman Lewis Kay said that his family was with him and he was “receiving excellent care.”
A fourth passenger, comedian Ardie Fuqua Jr., was also in critical condition, while a fifth passenger, comic Harris Stanton, was treated and released, Haigney said. Two others in the limo were unhurt, including the driver.
Middlesex County prosecutors said 35-year-old Kevin Roper, of Jonesboro, Ga., also faces four counts of assault by auto. His bail was set at $50,000, and he was expected to turn himself in later Saturday. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had an attorney.
Williams said the tractor-trailer driver apparently failed to slow for traffic ahead and swerved at the last minute to avoid a crash. But it smashed into the back of the limo, prompting a chain-reaction crash with a second tractor-trailer, an SUV and two cars.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was working with state police to look at any issues in the crash related to commercial trucking and limousine safety.
Wal-Mart President Bill Simon said in a statement a Wal-Mart truck was involved and that the company “will take full responsibility” if authorities determine that its truck caused the accident.
“We’re praying for the family and friends of the passenger who lost his life in the terrible accident,” the statement said.