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Driver's roommate: 'Nothing I could do'


Published:   |   Updated: February 14, 2014 at 09:35 PM

TAMPA — The last time Scott Enfinger saw his friend Daniel Morris, everyone was laughing.

Enfinger had thrown a barbecue the night of Feb. 8 in the backyard of his Broad Street home in Tampa. The 10 or so people there, including Morris, seemed to be having a good time, Enfinger said.

But as Saturday night turned into Sunday morning, Morris went inside the home and, moments later, peeled out of the driveway in Enfinger's Ford Expedition, which he had taken without asking.

A few minutes later, Morris was dead and so were four University of South Florida students that Morris hit head-on, driving the wrong way on Interstate 275 at about 2 a.m.

A week later, Enfinger said he still doesn't know why.

***

At a Friday afternoon press conference at his attorney's office, Enfinger, 28, said he knows some people think he shares responsibility. He says he doesn't.

“There is nothing I could do to stop this,” Enfinger said. “If I could, I would have moved heaven and earth. Unfortunately, I had no way of seeing this one.”

Enfinger said he and Morris, 27, had a few mixed drinks that night but said his longtime friend hadn't been acting strangely until he suddenly bolted from the party in Enfinger's SUV.

“This is not something we could see coming,” Enfinger said Friday during a press conference held at his attorney's Ybor City office. “If there was any fragment of a doubt or a question in my mind, me and him would have been wrestling in the front yard.”

Enfinger said when he heard Morris driving away, he ran after him barefoot. He said Morris was driving so fast one of the car wheels came off the ground when Morris turned off Broad Street.

As Enfinger returned home breathless and his feet bloody, his fiancé, Christina Baker, called 911 to report a stolen car, telling dispatchers Morris was under pressure and out of control.

Enfinger said his fiancé may have described Morris's mental state that way because of the erratic way he drove off.

But his friend from middle school never gave any indication of a crisis in his life that would lead him to steal his best friend's car, drive the wrong way on the interstate and crash into an occupied vehicle, he said.

“I have no clue,” Enfinger said. “I'm lost more than everybody else is. I couldn't tell you. I don't know. He wasn't that kind of person.”

***

About two weeks ago, Enfinger drove up to Michigan to pick up Morris, who wanted to return to Hillsborough County, where he had grown up and gone to school.

Morris had moved to Michigan to be with family and to get a fresh start. He worked at an assisted living facility where he drove clients to doctor's appointments, errands and bought them groceries. But he was sick of the winter cold and snow, Enfinger said.

Morris had been in Tampa less then a week, staying with Enfinger, Enfinger's fiancé and their five children, ages 8 to 11 months old. Enfinger's children considered him an uncle, and he reciprocated by playing with them and helping the oldest one with her math homework, Enfinger said.

“Nobody understands how much pain and sorrow my children are going through with this,” Enfinger said.

Morris, who had married in Hillsborough County in 2007, was going through a divorce. Enfinger said he doesn't think that was behind Morris' actions that night.

Morris wanted to return to Florida to get a new start. On Monday, Enfinger and Morris were going to Port Manatee to inquire about work. Port Manatee officials had contacted Morris while he was in Michigan. Years ago he had worked for Port Manatee unloading ships and doing mechanic work, Enfinger said.

***

On Saturday night, they invited friends over for a barbecue. There were about 10 people. He and Morris had drinks in the evening, Enfinger said.

“I had previously told him we're not going nowhere,” said Enfinger, 27. “I put my keys up, and we had a few drinks.”

Enfinger said he has spent days without sleeping or eating, analyzing what motivated his friend. He said he also feels pain for the the four USF students who died in the crash, and their families.

“I'll never recover from this,” Enfinger said. “He is my brother, and I will always love him.”

Enfinger said he hired an attorney because he has gotten death threats through social media. He's had to live away from home with his family because of the media attention and for his safety, he said.

He said he's sorry most people only know Morris because of the crash.

“He would go out of his way for a complete stranger,” Enfinger said. “He was just genuinely an awesome human being, and I'm sorry that everyone gets an outlook of him like this.”

jpatino@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7659

Twitter: @jpatinoTBO

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