Houston truck accident lawyers know too well the dangers of large commercial vehicles and 18-wheelers, many of which were highlighted in the deadly June 2014 crash involving comedian Tracy Morgan.
As is discussed below, the federal government’s investigation has revealed that — like nearly all truck accidents — the collision involving Tracy Morgan could have been prevented.
The night of Friday, June 6, 2014, Tracy Morgan and several other comedians performed, in Delaware, at the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. The show was part of Morgan’s “Turn It Funny” standup tour.
Shortly after midnight on June 7, comedian Ardie Fuqua Jr. posted on Instagram that:
Unfortunately, Fuqua had spoken too soon. Road life would not be the “good life” on this particular evening. In fact, the group would not make it back to NYC in one piece.
After the show, Fuqua, Morgan, comedian Harris Stanton, comedian James McNair, Morgan’s assistant Jeffrey Millea, limo bus driver Tyrone Gale, and one other limo company employee boarded a 2012 Mercedes Sprinter bus operated by Atlantic Transportation Services.
At around 1 a.m. on the morning on June 7, the events leading up to the tragic accident began to unfold. The limo bus was traveling north on the New Jersey Turnpike near Cranberry, around mile-marker 71.4, in the center of three lanes. Traffic slowed to a crawl due to construction work ahead.
Suddenly, a 2011 Peterbuilt truck-tractor and semitrailer operated by Wal-Mart struck the rear of the bus carrying Morgan. That initial collision caused several secondary impacts, as the truck and Mr. Morgan’s limo bus collided with several other vehicles that were stuck in traffic.
Ultimately, the limo bus flipped over and rolled across the center and right lanes. By the time the mangled vehicle came to rest facing east, seven vehicles and a total of 21 people had been injured or affected by the truck accident.
As a result of the collision, Morgan, McNair, Fuqua, Stanton, and Millea suffered critical injuries and were flown by helicopter to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Five other people also suffered personal injuries in the truck crash.
Tracy Morgan suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), several broken ribs, a broken nose, and a broken leg that required surgery on June 8, 2015. Morgan would ultimately slip into a coma, and remain comatose for two weeks.
Even worse, comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair paid the ultimate price. He was only 63 years old when he passed away.
In the months that followed, Morgan, Millea, and McNair’s surviving children filed civil personal injury lawsuits against Wal-Mart, alleging negligence. All of these injury lawsuits settled. It is not currently known how much Tracy Morgan received in settlement, but it has been reported that McNair’s children received a $10 million settlement.
Known mainly for investigating airline and aviation accidents, the federal National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is also responsible for investigating certain rail, marine, pipeline, and highway accidents.
The NTSB investigated the truck accident involving Tracy Morgan. On August 11, 2015, its preliminary findings were released. The primary causes of Morgan’s accident were:
- truck driver fatigue
- excessive speed by the 18-wheeler
Fatigue. The day before the crash, the Wal-Mart truck driver, Kevin Roper of Jonesboro, Georgia, drove his personal vehicle 800 miles overnight from his home in Georgia to his job in Delaware. He then reported to work the next day, without any sleep, and was on hour 13.5 of the 14-hour maximum duty allotment at the time of the accident.
The NTSB found that Roper had slept, at most, 4 hours in the preceding 33-hour timeframe. Further, the NTSB specifically faulted Wal-Mart for not having a fatigue management program in place at the time of the crash.
Excessive Speed. The NTSB also found that the truck driver was speeding (65 in a 45 mph zone) and failed to brake to avoid traffic in an active nighttime work zone. Moreover, the NTSB’s technical reconstruction of the accident determined that if the Wal-Mart truck had been traveling 45 miles per hour rather than 65, it could have stopped before colliding with the limo bus carrying Morgan.
Tracy Morgan’s accident could have been prevented. In an effort to make sure similar accidents do not happen in the future, the NTSB made several recommendations based on its investigation:
- Amend the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices “Guidance” for work zone projects on freeways and expressways to advise traffic engineers on the use of supplemental traffic control strategies and devices to mitigate crash events involving heavy commercial vehicles.
- Require that modifications to limo van vehicles (1) retain a full-sized exit on at least one side of the vehicle’s passenger compartment, and (2) have at least one other exit located on the front, back, or roof of the passenger compartment.
- Establish, with the involvement of county emergency medical services (EMS) coordinators, local municipalities, and EMS agencies, minimum training and practice standards for all organizations that provide EMS on the New Jersey Turnpike.
- Develop and distribute guidelines to limo and bus companies urging them, during pretrip safety briefings, to (1) direct passengers to use seat belts where required by law and strongly encourage passengers to use seat belts where not required by law, and (2) encourage passengers to use properly adjusted head restraints.
- Bus and limo vehicle-altering and final-stage manufacturing companies should be required to post the total passenger and luggage weight limit on any vehicle they alter.
- Trucking companies and other motor carriers should be required to develop and implement a fatigue management program based on the North American Fatigue Management Program guidelines for the management of fatigue in a motor carrier operating environment.
- Trucking companies should be required to incorporate into corporate safety programs a method for conducting ongoing analysis of aggregated critical event report data on hard-braking and stability control events.
- Vehicle manufacturers should be required to include, in all collision warning and avoidance systems for use on truck-tractors, single-unit trucks, and motorcoaches, the capability to store and retrieve data pertaining to object detection, driver audible/visual alerts, and interventions by the system for a period and at a data rate adequate to support accident investigation and reconstruction.
- Motor carriers should be provided with information and learn how to most effectively use currently available onboard monitoring systems.
- All passenger motor carrier operators should be required to (1) provide passengers with pretrip safety information that includes, at a minimum, a demonstration of the location of all exits, explains how to operate the exits in an emergency, and emphasizes the importance of wearing seat belts, if available; and (2) also place printed instructions in readily accessible locations for each passenger to help reinforce exit operation and seat belt usage.
- The government should develop performance standards for advanced speed-limiting technology, such as variable speed limiters and intelligent speed adaptation devices, for heavy vehicles, including trucks, buses, and motorcoaches.
- After establishing performance standards for advanced speed-limiting technology for heavy commercial vehicles, the government should require that all newly manufactured heavy vehicles be equipped with such devices.
- The government should complete, as soon as possible, the development and application of performance standards and protocols for the assessment of forward collision avoidance systems in commercial vehicles.
Our Houston Truck Accident Lawyers Are Ready To Help
More people have died in large truck accidents than have died in all commercial airline crashes combined. In fact, heavy trucks are involved in nearly one in eight fatal crashes.
The personal injury lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard help truck accident victims and their families around the country. We are based in Houston, Texas, but we handle serious injury cases nationwide.
We provide free and confidential consultations to everyone, and we only get paid when our clients win.
To begin the process, please call us at 1-800-489-2216 (713.489.1206 in Houston), or fill out our online case evaluation form.