Parents mourn Southeast High grads killed in Peru
Zachary Morris and Albert Ales died in the same way they lived — together.
The inseparable friends had just graduated from Southeast High School, but their celebratory trip to Peru was cut short on May 24, just hours after it started. A city bus hit the pair as they rode a moped in Cusco, halting their plans to visit Machu Picchu and the Rainbow Mountain.
Their families have since learned of a good Samaritan who came to the boys’ aid. They believe he was a doctor on vacation from either Canada or Europe, and that he spoke fluent English and French, according to an announcement on Thursday morning.
“We were told that he offered comforting words and he tried to keep the boys still,” said Kevin Morris, father of Zachary Morris, at a news conference Thursday outside of Southeast High.
“The families would like to thank this good Samaritan for his kindness, but also to ask if the boys were able to speak and may have had any last words they could share with us,” he continued.
Their fathers and mothers — Kevin Morris, Laura Morris, Albert Ales and Kimberly Ales — are also seeking justice for their sons.
Peruvian authorities gathered statements from the 27-year-old bus driver and his father, who rode the bus and collected tickets, Kevin Morris said. Though locals said the bus was speeding and moving into no-passing zones, police failed to record names or statements from the bus passengers, Morris’ father continued.
“Our boys’ lives were taken from us by the reckless, negligent and, we believe, criminal act of one individual — not an entire country,” Kevin Morris said.
Morris’ father said he would continue pushing for a full investigation while speaking with the U.S. Embassy in Lima. He also asked anyone with information about the doctor or potential witnesses — many who rode the El Huerto bus on Route 28-G — to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, the memory and positive influence of Zachary Morris and Albert Ales will survive in Bradenton, their families announced on Thursday. Their friendship began in the high school’s International Baccalaureate program, a rigorous course in both academic and personal growth.
Through a flood of donations on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe, and through support from the Community Foundation of Sarasota, the families started a scholarship for students in the IB program at Southeast High. Two students will earn the scholarship each year.
“Our boys wanted to make our world a better place by solving problems and engaging with other cultures,” Kevin Morris said. “That is the core of what the Inter-Baccalaureate program here at Southeast High School teaches: to see the world as one community. Tragically, our sons lost their lives following their dream to explore these far away places.”
The families thanked Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for his “diplomatic pressure,” which allowed them to visit Peru and recover their sons’ remains. They also praised Mosaic Company, which has mines in Peru, for providing a car and an interpreter.
Support was abundant on the families’ journey, starting with a flight from Miami to Lima, when a Peruvian woman offered a gold cross and her blessings. Others erected a cross near the road where Zachary Morris and Albert Ales were hit.
“Sorrow knows no language barriers,” Kevin Morris said.
The father held up a picture on Thursday morning, the last image of their sons together. He said they recovered a camera and about 50 photographs from a camera at the crash scene.
Their sons both had a passion for advocacy and innovation. Zachary Morris planned to attend Yale University on a four-year ROTC scholarship, and to enter the U.S. Navy as an officer.
His ultimate goal was to become a doctor and help ailing people in developing countries.
And his best friend, Albert Ales, was set to attend the University of Central Florida as a “Top 10 Knight.” He planned to earn a degree in mechanical engineering and develop fuel-efficient engines.
During their time at Southeast High, both students joined several friends and the engineering teacher, Richard Platt, in forming the Student Industrial Manufacturing Program. They used robotics to mass produce toy cars and send them to children in war-torn countries.
“Our sons are gone, but we can honor their memory and fight for justice on their behalf,” Kevin Morris said.