Krista DiGangi, center, mother of Matthew Yuhas, is consoled at...

Krista DiGangi, center, mother of Matthew Yuhas, is consoled at Sailor and Soldier Park in East Moriches, as the victim's sister, far left, Victoria, looks on. (Feb. 14, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

More than 250 friends and relatives of an 18-year-old East Moriches teenager gathered to memorialize him a day after, Suffolk police said, he fell asleep following a night of drinking and never woke up.

They honored Matthew Yuhas, a senior at Eastport-South Manor Senior High School, at a service in East Moriches Soldier & Sailors Memorial Park. They held candles, cried aloud and hugged each other as they shared memories of their friend even as they pleaded for answers about his death.

"I keep thinking he's going to come through the door and brighten up the room with his smile," said Yuhas' mother, Krista DiGangi. "But he's not."

She said her son - one of seven siblings - excelled in roller hockey and mixed martial arts.

Yuhas had planned to attend Suffolk County Community College in the fall and was considering a career as an NYPD officer. Yuhas was at a neighbor's home on Magnolia Court in East Moriches drinking alcohol with about six other young people on Saturday night, said Det. Lt. Gerard Pelkofsky, commander of the Homicide Squad.

At some point late Saturday or early Sunday, Yuhas went to sleep, Pelkofsky said.

Yuhas was still at the house late Sunday morning when someone there discovered him unresponsive. A representative of the Suffolk County medical examiner's office pronounced Yuhas dead at the house at 12:20 p.m.

Police said the cause of the teen's death was not known.

"We're not prepared to say alcohol was the reason he died," Pelkofsky said. "We're investigating whether alcohol was involved in the death. The medical examiner is doing an autopsy, and the toxicology will help us determine the cause of death."

Toxicology test results are not expected for several weeks.

Pelkofsky said investigators had some information on the source of the alcohol consumed, but he added that it "wasn't purchased by someone for them."

He declined to say what alcohol was consumed or how much. No one has been charged.

Yuhas' brother, Ryan, 24, of East Moriches, said the large crowd at the service showed the impact of Yuhas' death.

"This speaks for itself," he said, motioning to the crowd.

Nick Senn, 17, a close friend of Yuhas', said Yuhas was a big fan of the New York Yankees, New York Islanders and Green Bay Packers. He also idolized rapper Drake.

Matthew was a "great person - everyone loved him," Senn said.

With Zachary R. Dowdy

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