More than 60 tow truck drivers participated in a memorial convoy Saturday to raise awareness about heroin and prescription pill abuse on Long Island, following the apparent overdose death of one of their own.
Tow truck operator Michael Myers, 22, of Seaford, was found dead Tuesday at a home in Old Bethpage, according to his father, Kevin Myers, who suspects his son died from heroin use. An official cause of death has not been determined, Nassau County police said.
Myers' death shook Long Island's tight-knit community of tow truck operators, who banded together in support of their colleague's grieving father, who owns a Hempstead towing company -- a business he had planned to hand over to his late son.
Participants in the memorial run gathered in the parking lot of Sunrise Mall, then headed to Mangano Funeral Home in Deer Park, where a wake was held for Myers. The convoy's organizer, Barry Hauptman, 55, of Lindenhurst, said it was a way to bring attention to the twin epidemics of heroin and pain pill abuse plaguing Long Island.
"We felt we needed to do something to help change things," said Hauptman, who owns a local tow equipment and repair business. "The overdoses are out of control."
Overall fatal opioid overdoses -- from both heroin and pills -- killed at least 375 Long Island residents in 2013 and 341 in 2014, records show.
"I'll be thankful if this tragedy can help even one person," said Kevin Myers, 47, of Seaford. "We're losing too many people to this poison."
Michael Myers, who worked for his father's company, was a drug addict who had been in and out of treatment programs in recent years, his father said. But he had only recently begun using heroin and apparently took more than his body could handle, Kevin Myers said.
The former Seaford High School student's death should serve as a wake-up call to the thousands of other men and women struggling with heroin and prescription pill addiction, as well as their loved ones, Myers said.
"I don't want families to turn their backs on their kids because they have an addiction," Myers said. "I turned my back on my son before. I made that mistake, and I would do anything for a hug from him right now, high or clean."
Myers had appeared to be doing better recently, his father said, coming to work each day and staying clean after his February 2014 arrest for robbing an acquaintance's home in Massapequa Park. Myers pleaded guilty to charges of robbery, petty larceny and drug possession in the case, records show.
Upon his recent release from jail, he had seemed poised to kick his drug habit for good, Myers said.
"I thought I'd gotten my son back," Myers said. "And for all the other sons and daughters struggling with addiction out there, we have to do better."