TAMPA – On Feb. 11, 2014, the Tampa Tribune released new information stating that the wrong-way driver had been at a party before the fatal crash that took the lives of four USF students. The deceased driver whose sport utility vehicle became engulfed in flames upon impact, was difficult to identify initially because of the fire.
Daniel Morris was identified as the "wrong-way" driver and it was determined that he had been at a party early Sunday, according to neighbors, when he had climbed behind the wheel of a sport utility vehicle and began his journey that turned into a fatal, wrong-way trip down Interstate 275.
Little did Morris know, a concerned citizen had captured the deadly drive down I-75 on video. As the video footage unfolds, Morris' SUV can be seen bursting into flames. Morris, 28, wound up taking his own life along with four fraternity brothers driving in a Hyundai, from the University of South Florida.
Even days after the accident, investigators were still puzzled, wondering what could have been going through Morris' mind when he took off from the party that evening. They're piecing together the route he traveled, which would have been just 3 1/2 miles from the party if he had driven direct, but there are witnesses that place him headed south in the northbound lanes four miles north of the accident scene.
As the SUV collided with the Hyundai at around 2 a.m. on Sunday, the party was still going on at the single-family home at 2005 E. Broad Street.
According to Morris' neighbors, just three weeks earlier Morris moved in to live with his friend Scott Enfinger, along with a woman and three children. The two men hosted the party and a crowed listened to music and socialized until around 3 a.m.
About 15 minutes after the fatal crash on I-275, Tampa police received a call that someone had taken off with an SUV at that address. The Florida Highway Patrol said that Morris is the one that took Enfinger's 2001 Ford Expedition, which later collided head-on into a 2010 Hyundai Sonata carrying Jobin Joy Kuriakose, 21, of Orlando, Ankeet Harshad Patel, 22, of Melbourne, Imtiyaz Ilias, 20, of Fort Myers, and Dammie Yesudhas, 21, of Melbourne.
Deaundra Butler, who lives on Broad Street and knows Enfinger said that she was home Saturday night and saw a well-behaved group of party goers. While Enfinger had lived in the home for about a year, this was the first party that neighbors could remember.
Friend Andrew Etzler said that he had seen Morris on Friday. "He did a bunch of work on my car, and on my sister's truck. He was here helping us out with different mechanical things," said Etzler.
"I just know he was a real hard-working young man, so nice to everybody, more than willing to help anybody out, no matter what it was."
Ethel Davis has lived on Broad Street for 37 years and she said that she was home Saturday night and didn't hear the neighbor's party.
Davis said that when she saw the news trucks on her street on Tuesday night, she didn't make the connection to that vehicle in the Sunday morning crash. She found out that her neighbor was involved in the fatal wrong-way collision by watching the news.
"It's a state of disbelief that something could have originated that close to my house and I wasn't aware of it," said Davis. "That's the shock of the whole situation."
All four of the men who were killed in the Hyundai were members of USF's Sigma Beta Rho fraternity.
Smith & Stallworth, Attorneys at Law
At Smith & Stallworth, Attorneys at Law, our personal injury lawyers represent clients who have been injured in all types of auto accidents, including head-on collisions. We also represent surviving family members in wrongful death claims on behalf of their loved ones.
If you have been injured in an accident, we urge you to contact a Tampa personal injury attorney from our firm to find out how we can help you.