Deadly accident survivors use comedy to heal wounds

Tyrone Gale and Harris Stanton form bond after tragedy
Comedian Harris Stanton performs at the Starboard's Comedy Night Aug. 12. It was the first time he had been on stage since he was involved in an accident that left one man dead, comedian Tracy Morgan seriously injured and others with minor injuries. Stanton is still wearing a removable cast on his left wrist, which was broken during the accident. BY CHRIS FLOOD
August 21, 2014

For Tyrone Gale and comedian Harris Stanton, laughter truly is the best medicine.

Two months after being involved in a June 7 accident on the New Jersey Turnpike that killed a man, seriously injured comedian Tracy Morgan, and left Gale, Stanton, and another comedian battered and bruised, the two men gathered at the Starboard's Comedy Night Aug. 12, where they continued the healing process.

“It's good to get back out and laugh,” said Gale, co-owner of Atlantic Transportation Services of Rehoboth Beach. “It's been a hard thing to do. The goal is to heal.”

For Stanton, the 30-minute set was his first since the accident.

“I haven't been on the stage for over two months,” he said before his set. “I'm a little nervous.”

Gale was driving the luxury van transporting a group of comedians from the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino to New York after a June 6 show in Dover.

“I love comedy. That's pretty much why I drove,” he said.

According to police reports, at 1 a.m., the van was struck by a Walmart truck going nearly 20 mph over the turnpike's speed limit.

Because of pending lawsuits, neither Gale nor Stanton could talk about the accident, but Gale said the impact felt like the van was literally blowing up.

“It just came out of no where,” he said.

Gale said he suffered minor injuries, missed about a month of work and still has trouble driving at night. He said everybody from his family to his co-workers have been amazing in picking up the slack.

Everybody has stepped up, he said, and done extra work without batting an eye.

Stanton said he got into town Aug. 11 and had been enjoying Dewey Beach, a place he had never heard of before the connection with Gale.

“I feel good. I'm just here trying to have some fun,” he said. “I came down to hang out with Tyrone and to do a little bit of bonding.”

“Life is funny,” said Stanton, who is still wearing a hard plastic brace on his left wrist, which was broken during the accident. “When Tyrone picked us up that night, I couldn't imagine how our circumstances were going to change.”

Steve Montgomery, Starboard owner and partner with Gale in the limo service, was in attendance. He said he was happy the bar could serve as a place for the men to come together.

Summer started off with that tragedy, Montgomery said, and with one more week left for comedy night, this a good way to wind down the summer.

Gale said having Stanton around helps with the healing process, which has been incomplete up to this point.

“When I last saw these guys, they were leaving in ambulances and helicopters,” he said.

Gale said in the transportation industry, it's easy to gain a bad reputation, but he points out there was an additional driver in the passenger seat – a practice that's not required by law.

“We were taking the extra precautions,” he said. “I'm just grateful they know I was doing the best job I could, and they don't blame me for what happened.”

The accident has changed Gale's perspective on life. He said he used to be worried about providing for his wife and three kids, which meant working all the time. Now he said he understands it also means being around too.

“I've been holding my kids tight for sure,” he said.