The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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June 19, 2014

Feds say trucker in Morgan crash was speeding

NEWARK, N.J. — The driver of a tractor-trailer that plowed into a limousine van carrying comedian Tracy Morgan and several friends, killing one and severely injuring Morgan and two others, was speeding in the final moments before the crash, according to a preliminary report released Thursday.

Wal-Mart driver Kevin Roper was going 65 mph in a 45 mph zone just before the June 7 crash on the New Jersey Turnpike, according to the National Transportation Safety Board's report. The crash killed 62-year-old James McNair of Peekskill, New York.

The NTSB used the truck's electronic engine-control system to calculate how fast Roper was driving.

"A preliminary review of the data showed that the Peterbilt combination vehicle was traveling at 65 mph for the 60 seconds preceding the collision with the Mercedes-Benz limo van," the report concluded.

Traffic was slowed by construction that blocked two of the highway's three northbound lanes. According to the NTSB report, a sign warned of the lane closures about a mile south of where the accident occurred, and another sign a half-mile closer directed motorists to reduce their speed from 55 mph to 45 mph.

According to a Turnpike authority spokesman, the speed limit in that stretch of the highway has been lowered from 65 mph to 55 mph since a widening project began in 2009.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. trucks are equipped with devices that limit the vehicles' speed to 65 mph, a spokeswoman said, so Roper was going at the top speed possible.

Drivers are required to follow the posted speed limit under Wal-Mart policy, spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said Thursday. "Of course we expect our drivers to comply with the laws, whether it's a speed limit, or (something else)," she said.

She otherwise declined to comment on the report, citing the ongoing investigation.

Messages left Thursday at several phone numbers listed for Roper's attorney were not immediately returned.

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