A sunny hike through the Pine Barrens in Manorville turned tragic for Boy Scout Troop 161 in September.
A seventh-grade Shoreham-Wading River Middle School student was killed and four others were injured after a drunken driver crashed into the troop as they walked along the shoulder of David Terry Road Sept. 30.
The deceased boy was later identified as 12-year-old Andrew McMorris of Wading River.
Andrew was remembered by his parents, John and Alisa, as “no ordinary boy,” who had a sense of wonder and passion for learning.
Above all, what stood out was Andrew’s passion for aviation. He had just attended Aerospace Camp last summer. “He wanted his whole self in the clouds, broken free of the bonds of this earth, borne up into an endless sky, with nothing but blue around him and horizon ahead, aloft and away,” his parents wrote. “Fly high, Andrew.”
News of his death reached American Airlines, who memorialized Andrew in an Instagram post liked over 18,000 times. “To a young man who dreamed of flying our Dreamliner one day: We wish you blue skies and tailwinds. You’ll always be part of our #fAAmily,” the caption read.
In the days following the tragic crash, a sea of red ribbons were hung on front doors, mailboxes and storefronts in the Shoreham-Wading River area to show support for the McMorris family and the members of Boy Scout Troop 161.
A GoFundMe page started by Eagle Scouts and Riverhead alumni raised over $10,000 in two days. The funds were split among donations to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats Helping the Arts & Music program and Troop 161.
The driver in the crash, Thomas Murphy, 59, of Holbrook pleaded not guilty to his original charge of misdemeanor DWI.
Mr. Murphy was later arraigned on a 16-count indictment, including aggravated vehicular homicide, which carries a maximum penalty of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. Other charges include second-degree vehicular manslaughter, aggravated DWI and second-degree assault, among others.
Mr. Murphy, who admitted to drinking alcohol, refused to take a breath test at the scene and also refused a chemical test at the police station, according to the assistant district attorney.
Police later took a blood sample after obtaining a warrant more than three hours after the crash. Though results of the blood alcohol test have not been released, the upgraded charges indicated it would be above .18, which is more than twice the legal limit of .08.
Mr. Murphy remains free on $500,000 bond.
Through his attorney, Stephen McCarthy Jr. of Manhattan, Mr. Murphy issued a statement indicating he would cooperate during the investigation. “I take responsibility for my role in the tragic accident,” he said. “I am deeply sorry. Myself, and my family, offer our prayers to the McMorris family in this extraordinarily painful and difficult time.”
At a Nov. 27 court appearance, the case was adjourned until Jan. 24.
Photo caption: Andrew McMorris, 12, tragically died in September.