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Tracy Morgan crash update: NTSB blames truck operator’s lack of sleep, creates animation of crash scene

Roper's truck following the crash.

Roper’s truck following the crash.

The root cause of the fatal June 2014 crash involving a Walmart tractor-trailer and actor/comedian Tracy Morgan was a tired truck operator, the National Transportation Safety Board has concluded. The NTSB released the results of its year-long investigation Aug. 11, which mostly is a reiteration of the board’s preliminary investigation findings released last year.

Truck driver Kevin Roper, who has been charged with vehicular homicide in the case, had slept just four hours in the 33 hours preceding the crash. He had been awake in excess of 28 hours during that 33-hour period, the NTSB said.

The crash, which left Morgan and others severely injured and comedian James McNair dead, sparked a firestorm of debate over truck operators’ hours-of-service limits last summer and nearly derailed attempts by Congress to rollback some 2013-implemented rules governing the use of a driver’s 34-hour restart.

But as the NTSB notes in its Aug. 11 report, hours-of-service limits “do not address off-duty choices,” echoing the sentiment expressed last year by the American Trucking Associations following the crash and the debate surrounding it.

NTSB released this animation of the crash with its Aug. 11 report:

Roper was traveling about 20 mph over the posted 45 mph speed limit — a reduced limit due to construction. Traffic was moving at about 10 mph when Roper approached, and he was traveling roughly 65 mph when he came upon the Mercedes limo van in which McNair, Morgan and others were riding.

Factors pointing to Roper’s fatigue, says NTSB,  include not slowing down to the reduced 45 mph limit and failing to reacting to the slower traffic ahead of him. He only began to brake about 200 feet before impact, NTSB says.

Contributing to Roper’s fatigue was the odd commute he made the night before in his personal car, driving about 800 miles from Georgia to Delaware to begin his on-duty driving period.

Since the crash, Walmart has settled civil suits with both Morgan and the family of McNair.

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James Jaillet is the News Editor for CCJ and Overdrive. Reach him at jjaillet@randallreilly.com.