By Bruce Konviser
NEW BRUNSWICK N.J. (Reuters) - Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan was still in critical condition but more responsive on Sunday after suffering injuries including a broken leg and nose and several broken ribs in a deadly New Jersey highway crash, his spokesman said.
Morgan, best known for his roles in "30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live" television shows, and two other people traveling with him in a limo bus were injured in the crash with a truck that also killed comedian James McNair on Saturday.
"While Tracy remains in critical condition, he has been more responsive today, which is an incredibly encouraging sign," his spokesman, Lewis Kay, said in a statement. "We expect him to remain in the hospital for several weeks. His family is tremendously overwhelmed and appreciative of the outpouring of love and support from his fans."
Kay said Morgan, 45, had suffered several injuries, including a broken leg, femur and nose and several broken ribs and that he had surgery on his leg.
McNair, 62, known by his stage name Jimmy Mack, of Peekskill, New York, died at the scene, according to New Jersey State Police.
The comics were returning from a performance in Delaware around 1 a.m. on Saturday when a transport truck slammed into the back of their chauffeured Mercedes limo bus near Cranbury Township, New Jersey, flipping it over.
The impact caused a chain reaction crash involving another truck, a sport utility vehicle and two other cars, said New Jersey State Police spokesman Gregory Williams.
"The Peterbilt tractor-trailer was traveling northbound on the turnpike, in the center lane, when the driver failed to recognize traffic was slowing," he said.
"When he did notice the Mercedes bus in front of him, he attempted to avoid collision by swerving to the left but it was too late." A fifth passenger in the limo was lightly injured and released from the hospital. Passengers in the other vehicles were not hurt, Williams said.
DRIVER CHARGED The driver of the truck, Kevin Roper, 35, of Jonesboro, Georgia, turned himself in to authorities and was charged with death by auto and four counts of assault by auto, a Middlesex County Correction official said. He was released from jail on Sunday after posting $50,000 bail, the official said. He is expected to face arraignment in New Jersey early this week.
The limo driver, Tyrone Gale, said on Facebook there was nothing he could do to prevent the crash. "I can only say feeling helpless on the highway was very hard to take," he wrote. "There was nothing I could do but scream at times."
State police said the two other injured passengers were comedians Ardie Fuqua and Harris Stanton.
The Mercedes limo bus owner, Atlantic Transportation Services, released a statement of condolences to McNair's family and those hurt in the crash.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Saturday one of its trucks was involved in the collision, which is under investigation by police and the National Transportation Safety Board.
"We are working quickly to understand what happened and are cooperating fully with law enforcement to aid their investigation," said Bill Simon, chief executive of Walmart U.S.
Morgan is one of the best-known black comedians in the United States, using humor to spotlight racial prejudices.
The New York City native left the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2003 after seven years on the show. He went on to star in the sitcom "30 Rock" for seven seasons alongside Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin.
Morgan has three sons with his first wife, Sabina Morgan, and is engaged to Megan Wollover, with whom he had a daughter in 2013.
Sabina Morgan told the New York Daily News she and Morgan's sons were shaken by the accident.
"It's like I'm in a nightmare," she said.
Word of the crash prompted an outpouring of sentiment on social media.
"Get better fast ... You have most positive thoughts," tweeted actor and director Henry Winkler.
(Additional reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in New York and David Jones in New Jersey; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)