Walmart trucker faces five charges in weekend crash on New Jersey Turnpike

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 6/9/2014

The man behind the wheel of a Walmart tractor-trailer faces one count of death by auto and four counts of assault by auto after crashing into a van on the New Jersey turnpike.

Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Ga., turned himself into police and was released on $50,000 bail Saturday night, according to reports. He is scheduled to appear in court at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 11, before Judge Bradley Ferencz in Middlesex County Superior Court.

The crash occurred at around 1 a.m. on Saturday, and left one man, 62-year-old James McNair of Peekskill, N.Y., dead. Four other passengers, including actor and comedian Tracy Morgan, were taken to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, where the former SNL and “30 Rock” star is listed in critical condition.

The criminal complaint states that Roper had not slept for “a period of in excess of 24 hours,” but the document does not state any additional details as to how investigators arrived at that conclusion.

A preliminary investigation determined that the 2011 Peterbilt tractor-trailer crashed into the van, a 2012 Mercedes Sprinter, according to a news release from the Middlesex (N.J.) County Prosecutor’s Office. Both vehicles were in the northbound lanes of the New Jersey Turnpike. Four other vehicles were subsequently involved in the crash. Occupants of those vehicles were not injured.

Walmart president and CEO Bill Simon issued a statement after the crash, saying the company was cooperating with the investigation.

“This is a tragedy and we are profoundly sorry that one of our trucks was involved,” according to the statement posted on the company website. “We are working quickly to understand what happened and are cooperating fully with law enforcement to aid their investigation. The facts are continuing to unfold. If it’s determined that our truck caused the accident, Walmart will take full responsibility.”

According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Walmart tractor trailers were involved in 375 total crashes in the last three years, despite logging more than 667 million miles per year.

Of the 375 crashes, nine were fatality crashes, 127 were injury crashes, and 239 were tow-away crashes, according to FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System.

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