ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan was critically injured in a fatal six-vehicle pileup on the New Jersey Turnpike today, hours after performing a standup routine at a show in Delaware, authorities said.
A limousine bus carrying the former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” cast member and six others overturned after it was hit by a tractor-trailer 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, died in the crash, Williams said. Three other men, including Morgan, were in critical condition at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital, and one was in fair condition, he said. Two occupants weren’t injured.
Morgan’s publicist said the comedian was in the chauffeured vehicle returning from a tour date when the crash occurred.
“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 declined to release details of the pileup, which involved two tractor-trailers, an SUV, two cars and Morgan’s limo bus.
Kay’s statement did not reveal the extent of Morgan’s injuries or identify the others involved in the crash.
Morgan performed comedy standup Friday night at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in Delaware. His scheduled appearance at the Fillmore Charlotte in North Carolina on today night has been canceled.
The 45-year-old New York City native joined “SNL” in 1996 and was on the sketch-comedy program for seven years before leaving to star in “The Tracy Morgan Show” in 2003. That show lasted just one season. In 2006, Morgan found a long-running role on NBC’s hit show “30 Rock,” which was created by “SNL” co-star Tina Fey. He received an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor for “30 Rock” in 2009.
One of his signature routines on “30 Rock” involved an award category his character invented called an “EGOT,” representing all the entertainment-related awards he hoped to win: an Emmy, a Grammy, and Oscar and a Tony.
Morgan grew up fatherless, one of five siblings, in a blighted section of Brooklyn, where he helped raise and support the family.
He once called his gift for being funny “a defense mechanism” for his miserable circumstances. As a teen, he started doing comedy on the streets to supplement the family’s welfare income.
His tough upbringing informed his humor.
“My aunt was a crackhead,” he told his Brooklyn audience in a recent special aired on Comedy Central. “I remember one Christmas she bought me a Game Boy. Then she stole it. Then she helped me look for it.”
In recent years, he has struggled with alcoholism and has been arrested on drunken driving charges. He had a successful kidney transplant in late 2010.
Morgan’s films include “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” ‘‘The Longest Yard,” ‘‘First Sunday,” ‘‘Rio” and “Why Stop Now.”
The New Jersey Turnpike was closed for more than five hours after the crash.