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Comic Tracy Morgan critically hurt in 6-car pileup

NEW BRUNSWICK, New Jersey--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 was charged with death by auto in connection to the crash, prosecutors said. Middlesex County prosecutors said 35-year-old Kevin Roper, of Jonesboro, Georgia, also faces four counts of assault by auto stemming from the crash. His bail was set at US$50,000, and he was expected to turn himself in later Saturday. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.

Morgan, the former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” cast member, was returning from a standup comedy show in Delaware when his 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.

James McNair, 62, of Peekskill, New York, a passenger in the limo bus and comedian who performed as Jimmy Mack, died at the scene, Williams said. Morgan, 45, and Jeffrey Millea, 36, of Shelton, Connecticut, were flown from the accident scene to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, where they were in critical condition, hospital spokesman Peter Haigney said.

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.

Morgan remains in the intensive care unit at the hospital.

“His family is now with him and he is receiving excellent care,” spokesman Lewis Kay said in a statement. “We don't anticipate much of a change in his condition today but will provide a further update once more information becomes available.”

Williams said the tractor-trailer driver apparently failed to notice slow traffic ahead and swerved at the last minute in a vain attempt to avoid a crash. But the tractor-trailer smashed into the back of the limo, prompting a chain-reaction crash with a second tractor-trailer, an SUV and two cars.

The U.S. 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.

Morgan's limo was owned by Atlantic Transportation Services, which said it had one employee behind the wheel and a second in the front passenger seat.

“Although the investigation is still pending, we concur with the preliminary reports that the accident was caused by another vehicle traveling behind the Atlantic limo bus,” the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware-based company said. “We are grateful that our drivers did not sustain life-threatening injuries.”

Walmart President Bill Simon issued a statement that said one of the firm's trucks was involved in the accident. While noting that the crash remains under investigation, Simon said “Walmart will take full responsibility” if authorities determine that the company's 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. “Our hearts go out to everyone involved and we hope those who were injured get the care that they need and make a full recovery.”

Morgan performed standup comedy Friday night at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. His scheduled appearance at the Fillmore Charlotte in North Carolina on Saturday night was canceled.

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Actor Tracy Morgan attends the FX Networks Upfront premiere screening of “Fargo” at the SVA Theater in this photo taken in New York on April 9. (AP)

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