TAMPA — The driver of the sport-utility vehicle that drove the wrong way on Interstate 275 last month and crashed into a vehicle killing four University of South Florida students was driving under the influence of alcohol that was more than twice the legal limit and had a trace amount of marijuana in his system, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office said Monday.
Daniel Lee Morris’ blood-alcohol level was 0.20, according to the medical examiner’s office. In Florida, a person is considered legally intoxicated with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08. Morris also had a small amount of marijuana. He could have smoked marijuana the same day of the crash or it could have been a few days prior to the crash. The timing was inconclusive, said Leszek Chrostowski, associate medical examiner.
Raj Patel, fraternity brother and friend of the four students who died in the crash, said the news of Morris driving under the influence wasn’t a “shocking revelation.”
“I’m not surprised that he was under the influence of anything,” said Patel, a USF junior who is president of USF’s Sigma Beta Rho, the fraternity that all four men were members.
“It’s just more knowledge,” he said. “It really doesn’t change my perspective. It’s just another piece. It’s more information to know why it happened.”
On Feb. 8, Morris was at a barbecue at his friend’s Broad Street home in Tampa. Morris, who had been living in Michigan but was originally from Hillsborough County, had moved into the home about a week before and was staying there with his best friend Scott Enfinger, Enfinger’s fiancé and their five children.
Around 2 a.m. Feb. 9, Morris took off from the party in Enfinger’s Ford Explorer. Morris never asked if he could borrow the car. Enfinger chased after him on foot. His fiancé, Christina Baker, called 911.
Morris later entered I-275 heading southbound in the northbound lanes. He crashed into a Hyundai Sonata carrying Jobin Joy Kuriakose, 21, of Orlando; Ankeet Harshad Patel, 22, of Melbourne; Imtiyaz Ilias, 20, of Fort Myers; and Dammie Yesudas, 21, of Melbourne. The four were students at USF and members of the university’s fraternity Sigma Beta Rho.
Morris died instantly after the head-on collision, Chrostowski said.
“He was dead on impact,” Chrostowski said. “He dislocated his neck and that caused brain stem contusion and that was it. It’s a lethal injury.”
His vehicle caught on fire after the crash. His skin was completely burned, Chrostowski said.
“No facial features,” he said. “Everything was burned.”
Morris’s ex-wife, Tanya Dunn, said she wasn’t surprised to hear that he was driving under the influence. She learned from friends that the week he moved back down to Tampa he had been driving drunk several times, she said.
While they were together, Morris drank alcohol socially, but he didn’t drink daily, she said. Prior to the crash they were legally separated but not divorced. They hadn’t spoke in 14 months prior to the crash, she said.
She doesn’t think Morris drove off under the influence in a state of depression or despondent.
“It was simple disregard,” she said.
Patel said he’s trying to move forward and hopes the toxicology report helps to remind people the dangers of driving under the influence.
“We are trying to move on,” Patel said. “Remember their values. Live like they would want us to live.”