Two new memorial signs intended to remind motorists of the deadly consequences of impaired driving will be unveiled near Graham on Friday, Feb. 21 to remember a Bethel Junior High School student whose life was tragically cut short by a drunk driver.
The sign unveiling ceremony, set for 1 p.m., will remember 14-year-old Daniel Morse, who was killed Dec. 27, 2009 after he crossed the 9800 block of 204th Street East at dusk and began riding his new skateboard on the side of the road given to him for Christmas. Morse was thrown into the air after Darrell Andrew Ross, who was driving over the legal blood alcohol limit of .08 and without his headlights on, swerved and slammed into him. Ross, who admitted to the crime, was convicted and served 23 months in prison.
“We usually install one memorial sign in memory of victims, but we are installing two in this case,” said Sharon Reynon of the Tacoma Pierce County DUI Victim’s Panel. “This is to doubly remind motorists of the toll impaired driving can take on families.” Daniel’s older brother Christopher also was killed by a driver suspected of alcohol and marijuana impairment while driving home from his job at a pizza parlor in 2003 in the San Diego area.
To assist the family in getting out their message that all impaired driving crashes are preventable, the Tacoma Pierce County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force will conduct a special DUI emphasis patrol on Saturday night, Feb. 22. At least 25 task force troopers, deputies and officers will hunt for impaired drivers throughout East Pierce County, including near the site where Daniel was killed, handing out memorial flyers about Daniel to the motorists they stop.
Pierce County Sheriff's Sgt. Jason Harms, who will coordinate the multi-agency patrol, said he expects more than the usual number of arrests Saturday night in part because the task force will utilize the Washington State Patrol’s Mobile Impaired Driving Unit (MIDU).
The MIDU is a 36-foot mobile home equipped with three breath-test instruments and two holding cells. It enables patrol officers to drop off arrested motorists for processing and get back on patrol in minutes. Troopers manning the MIDU Saturday night will request blood warrants whenever arrestees show signs of impairment but have not been drinking. Once warrants are obtained, on-board phlebotomists will draw blood samples to determine which impairing drugs drivers have consumed.
“We will be working hard to remove every alcohol- or drugged-impaired driver from the road that night in hopes we will never have to erect another sign like Daniel’s,” said Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor, who will kick off the special DUI emphasis patrol on Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. and accompany the task force’s Home Safe Bar team on bar visits.
Media are invited to cover the brief roadside sign ceremony on the 9800 block of 204th Street East near Graham at 1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21.
On Saturday night, media can interview family members, follow as Daniel’s two surviving brothers ride along with Sheriff’s deputies, accompany the Home Safe Bar Team to area bars where drivers said they had been drinking before being arrested.
Gloria Mansfield Averill, Pierce County Community Connections