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Thread: Albert Ales and Zachary Morris, both 18 dead in Peru

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    Albert Ales and Zachary Morris, both 18 dead in Peru

    Two Florida teenagers, who had recently graduated high school, were tragically killed while on a celebratory trip to Peru this week.

    Southeast High School students Albert Ales and Zachary Morris, both 18, were exploring the city of Cusco on Friday, May 24 when they were killed in a ?tragic accident,? their school confirmed on Twitter.

    ?Our Southeast Community is heartbroken after hearing the unimaginable news that recent IB graduates Albert Ales and Zachary Morris passed away yesterday in a tragic accident while exploring Peru,? the school in Bradenton, Florida wrote.

    Our thoughts and prayers are centered around their family and friends,? they added in their statement of the students who were a part of the International Baccalaureate ?IB? program and graduated on May 18.

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    Parents of Manatee teens killed in Peru want answers
    By Ryan McKinnon
    Posted Jun 13, 2019 at 5:40 PM
    Updated Jun 14, 2019 at 8:37 AM

    Albert Ales, a Southeast High School graduate, stands on a rooftop in Peru hours before his death. He and fellow Southeast graduate Zack Morris were hit and killed by a bus just days after graduation. [Photo courtesy of the Morris and Ales families]▲

    From left, Kimberly and Al Ales and Kevin and Laura Morris appeared at a press conference at Southeast High School on Thursday morning. The parents were announcing a new scholarship in honor of their sons, who died days after graduating while on vacation in Peru. [Herald-Tribune staff photo / Ryan McKinnon]▲
    Recent Southeast High School graduates Albert Ales and Zack Morris' memory will live on through scholarship announced Thursday.

    One day in May, Albert Ales, 18, drove to the last haircut he would ever receive.

    Albert, an aspiring mechanical engineer and Southeast High School senior, saw a car broken down on the side of the road, so he naturally pulled over, crawled under the car and got to work.

    His mom, Kimberly, happened to be driving by, and on Thursday she laughed as she recalled seeing her boy — on the cusp of manhood — helping a stranger on the side of the road.

    She noted that after helping, he hopped back in a Chrysler Sebring convertible and drove to his haircut in customary Albert fashion — top down, shirt off.

    "You gotta tan while you drive," she said, quoting her son.

    Weeks later, Albert and his best friend and fellow Southeast graduate Zack Morris would be dead, struck and killed by a bus while vacationing in Peru.

    The details of how the two died and the aftermath are murky — police reports with limited witness statements and mysterious strangers captured in accident photographs.

    On Thursday the boys' parents held a press conference at Southeast High School with the dual purpose of announcing a new scholarship program established in their sons' memories and asking the international community for help finding answers.

    "These two boys represented some of the best and brightest young minds entering college today," Zack's father, Kevin Morris, said. "... Our boys wanted to make our world a better place by solving problems and engaging other cultures."

    Lives cut short

    Zack and Albert died hours after arriving in Peru, days after graduating high school and months before setting out into the world — Albert due to study engineering at University of Central Florida and Zack headed for Yale on a Navy ROTC scholarship.

    Both young men were go-getters. Zack wanted to see the world through the Navy and eventually become a doctor, learn Swahili and move to Africa. Albert, a painter, aspiring engineer and amateur mechanic, was always messing with his dad's tools, teaching himself. He had apprenticed with an electrician last summer, just to learn the trade.

    The ultimate goal of the trip was to hike Machu Picchu, but their first stop as they acclimated to the altitude was San Cristobal Church, following the advice Albert's father and namesake, Al Ales, had given him.

    "When we'd travel, I'd always tell him, 'Go see a church,'" Al said.

    The boys talked to an old woman knitting scarves outside the church and took pictures of the stray dogs ubiquitous to South America. Zack's camera, found at the scene of the accident, contains the final shots the two recent graduates took, including a picture of Albert standing on a Peruvian rooftop, scooter helmet in hand, surveying the landscape. A shot of Zack shows him squinting in the sun, with the dome of San Cristobal just over his shoulder.

    After the church visit, the two hopped on a motor scooter and set out for Sacsayhuaman Archaeological Park in Cusco, an ancient Incan citadel.

    The official government account of what happened next is that the boys steered their scooter into the path of a bus. They were grievously wounded and died shortly after being taken to a nearby hospital.

    The families have a hard time believing this narrative. The speed limit in the intersection where the boys were struck was 18 mph, but Zack was hit so hard that he flew 80 feet. Their injuries and the damage to the scooters are concentrated to the left side of their bodies and the scooter, indicating they were broadsided by a speeding bus that drifted off the road.

    The parents are calling for witnesses to the accident to come forward and are working with the U.S. Embassy in Lima to get a full account of what happened. Currently, the only witnesses who have provided accounts to the Peruvian officials are the bus driver and his father, who was on the bus at the time, Zack's mother, Laura, said.

    "We just want a fair investigation," Kevin Morris said. "The facts of what is at the scene is not lining up with the police theory of what happened."

    A kind stranger

    The boys spent their final moments with an unknown stranger. A doctor — either Canadian or European — got off his tour bus and rendered aid to the boys as they lay in the street, witnesses said. The man spoke to the boys and tried to keep them still.

    That final conversation has become a focal point for the Morris family in particular. They want to thank the man who was there for their son when they couldn't be. They want to know if Zack or Albert said anything before they died.

    "He was seen talking to the boys, and so I am not sure if the boys were able to speak," Kevin Morris said. "If they were, our hope was maybe he could share a memory that he had. Maybe the boys had some final words. But we want to thank him for getting involved because he didn't have to."

    The only clue to the doctor's identity is a pixilated image, showing a middle-aged man in glasses and a blazer crouched over one of the boys. Kevin Morris held up the image at the press conference, and is hoping word will get back to the Good Samaritan, so they can one day connect.

    Scholarship fund

    While seeking justice in Peru and finding the man who helped their sons won't bring their children back, the families want to provide chances for students to have the college experience their sons will never get.

    Their families have established an endowment fund that will award scholarships to two Southeast High School International Baccalaureate graduates each year. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is overseeing the funds, and 100% of the donations will go toward scholarships for future graduates.

    Both young men graduated from the IB program at Southeast, an advanced-degree program that infuses hands-on learning with rigorous academics.

    While there, Albert and Zachary worked on a project manufacturing thousands of wooden toys to be delivered to children in war-torn countries by the 101st Airborne. They secured funding from Google executives and convinced the Army to participate.

    Al marveled at his son's ambition, but he was quick to say that Albert was still a kid.

    Most nights Albert, full of 18-year-old swagger and self-confidence, would sit and talk to his dad when he got home from his job waiting tables at Sixty East, the Italian restaurant in Ellenton. His dad would remind him he didn't know everything, but he told him he understood, he was 18 once, too.

    It's that same room where Al got the call on May 24 at 3:34 p.m. from the vice consulate at the U.S. Embassy in Peru.

    Now, as he sits in that office, memories of Albert — his ingenuity and self-assurance — can make him laugh even in spite of the grief.

    "I can almost see my boy sitting in my office," he said. "He's looking at me saying, you know, 'toughen up.'"
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