Andrew McMorris turns 17 this summer.

But in 2018 the bright-eyed kid from Wading River was killed aged 12 when a drunk driver drove an SUV into his troop of Scouts while they were in Manorville. Hiking on the Greenbelt Trail.

“We don’t want what happened to us to happen to other people,” said his father, John McMorris, last Thursday at Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr. and mother Anti-Drunk Driving said at a press conference. DUI enforcement will be enforced throughout the county this summer.

Andrew’s mother had a similar message: “There’s no such thing as a lost child in a family,” she said, “it’s a 100 percent preventable crime.”

Toulon Sheriff said his department’s drink-driving team saw a 40 per cent increase in arrests for drunk driving and impaired driving compared to last year.

The sheriff said summer is the deadliest time for drunk driving, citing National Highway Safety Administration data showing twice as many drunk drivers in summer than in other months of the year.

“We’re here to let everyone know that this summer, from Fourth of July weekend all the way through Labor Day, the dangers of being a drunk or drugged driver are very high,” the sheriff said.

Andrew McMorris was killed by a drunk driver in 2018 in an undated photo. (picture provided by me)

The Fourth of July holiday has the highest number of drunk-driving fatalities of the year, according to the National Safety Council, which estimated last year’s Fourth of July crashes killed 462 people, with 41 percent of the deaths attributed to drunk driving of.

Citing MADD and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Mr McMorris said that despite all the warnings, there has been a 52 percent increase in drink-driving fatalities since 2019.

The news conference took place in front of the sheriff’s department’s BAT mobile unit, a high-tech mobile command center for DWI checkpoints, complete with breath and blood testing equipment, video recording equipment, computer workstations and a small holding cell behind it. The command center enables deputies to quickly collect and analyze blood and breath tests of people arrested for DUI, drug use or DUI and, if necessary, detain suspects.

The mobile unit also has cameras atop a tall pole on the roof of the command center, allowing officials to more effectively monitor the area around the checkpoint and act as eyes in the sky for people trying to drive away.

“We have so-called tracking vehicles,” Sheriff Lieutenant Candice Berezzi told the Suffolk Times. “Anyone who tries to avoid a checkpoint, the tracking vehicles will go after them.”

Suffolk County Sheriff Lt. Candace Berezy inside the DUI Checkpoint Mobile Command Center, which includes a single cell. (Source: Chris Franciscani)

Andrew’s parents established the Andrew McMorris Foundation to raise money to fund scholarships and bursaries, and to invest in advocacy and legislative efforts to strengthen existing drink-driving laws.

The foundation raised money to fund a restoration project that transformed a dilapidated Adirondack cabin in Calverton into a new, updated space that can accommodate large groups of boys and girls. In late spring 2021, nearly three years after his death, Andrew McMorris Inn Bait Valley Boy Scout Camp officially opens.

Earlier this year, the foundation held Andrew’s 2nd Annual Top Gun 5K Run On the runway at Calverton Corporate Park, funds raised were split equally between the foundation and the Boy Scouts of America Suffolk County Council.

The SUV driver who killed Andrew was convicted in 2019 of aggravated vehicular homicide and manslaughter, carrying a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. Holbrook’s driver, Thomas Murphy, is currently appealing the conviction and seeking a new trial.

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