Looking back, Brooke Scherer figures she knew as soon as she regained consciousness that her son was already gone.

Scherer, her husband Jordan and their two children were heading north on Interstate 75 for a family trip to Ocala one afternoon in 2016 when they hit a traffic jam. Jordan Scherer braked and eased their Mazda CX-5 to a stop.

Seconds later, Brooke Scherer's world went dark, and then she awoke to chaos. Her husband was slumped across the center console, foam bubbling from his mouth. Their 5-year-old daughter Mallory screamed in pain from the backseat. Beside the little girl, the crumpled body of their 9-year-old son Logan was pinned behind the driver's seat.

"I'm fairly certain I knew my son was dead when I saw him because I remember thinking, 'I can't lose my husband, too,'" Brooke Scherer recalled.

Jordan and Brooke Scherer, formerly of Riverview, have launched a non-profit organization called Living for Logan to raise awareness about distracted driving and push for tougher laws. Their son Logan was killed in a car crash on Interstate 75 in Hernando County on September 2016. [From living4logan.org]
Jordan and Brooke Scherer, formerly of Riverview, have launched a non-profit organization called Living for Logan to raise awareness about distracted driving and push for tougher laws. Their son Logan was killed in a car crash on Interstate 75 in Hernando County on September 2016. [From living4logan.org]

Authorities say the driver of a Hyundai coupe had failed to slow for the traffic jam and slammed into the back of the family's SUV. The Scherers and their attorney say evidence shows the driver was looking down at his phone just before the crash.

The Scherers have now made it their mission to pass tougher penalties for distracted driving, creating a nonprofit group in their son's name. This week, the couple spent three days in Tallahassee sharing their story to persuade lawmakers to pass a law allowing Florida law enforcement officers to pull motorists over for texting and driving.

They stressed a simple message, Jordan Scherer said: "You do not want to walk a mile in our shoes."

•••

Everything had been going according to the young family's plan.
Logan was a happy fourth grader at Riverview's Symmes Elementary, a comic book lover who took piano lessons and played soccer for the West Florida Flames. Mallory had just started kindergarten at Symmes.

Gregory M. Andriotis, 34, of Deltona was arrested Tuesday and charged with vehicular homicide in connection to a 2016 crash on Interstate 75 that killed nine-year-old Logan Scherer of Riverview. [Photo from Volusia County Corrections]
Gregory M. Andriotis, 34, of Deltona was arrested Tuesday and charged with vehicular homicide in connection with Logan’s death. [Volusia County Corrections]
“Her older brother was her life,” said Brooke, 37. “She would sleep with him every night.”

Brooke had just earned tenure at the University of Tampa, where she taught graphic design. Jordan worked as a production assistant at a Tampa marketing firm.

The crash happened the afternoon of Sept. 15, 2016, near the State Road 50 exit in Hernando County. The three surviving family members spent several days in the hospital. Surgeons installed rods and titanium rods to repair Mallory's broken femur and six staples in Jordan's scalp to close a wound.

Brooke spent a week with a tube in her chest while her punctured lung healed behind broken ribs.

Logan died of blunt force trauma, his family said.

Gregory M. Andriotis, of Deltona, was cited for careless driving. Last fall, the Scherers attended a court hearing and watched as a judge suspended his license, issued a fine and ordered him to complete community service. That day, the couple said, an assistant state attorney told them an ongoing criminal investigation might yet result in charges.

The couple hired their own attorney and last May filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Andriotis and his employer, Harper Limbach, LLC, an engineering and construction firm based in Tampa.

This photo from Hillsborough County court records shows the crash scene on Sept. 15, 2016, when a Hyundai sedan, left, slammed into the back of Logan and Brooke Scherer’s Madza CX-5. The Scherers’ son Logan, who was sitting in the back, died at the scene. [Hillsborough County Clerk of Court]
This photo from Hillsborough County court records shows the crash scene on Sept. 15, 2016, when a Hyundai sedan, left, slammed into the back of Logan and Brooke Scherer’s Madza CX-5. The Scherers’ son Logan, who was sitting in the back, died at the scene. [Hillsborough County Clerk of Court]

According to the complaint filed in Hillsborough County, Andriotis was driving at speeds up to 90 mph that day and was surfing the web and texting. The crash happened on a straight stretch of road, and there is no evidence that Andriotis braked or tried to take evasive action before the crash, said Joe Patsko, the Scherers' attorney.

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"It's a distracted driving case, there's no doubt about it," Patsko said. "From all the evidence we've seen so far, Mr. Andriotis was looking down at his phone."

In court filings, attorneys for Andriotis and Harper Limbach deny they acted negligently. In an affidavit, Andriotis said he was driving from a job site in Wesley Chapel to the company's office in Orlando at the time of the crash. The affidavit says phone records show Andriotis was talking on the phone with a co-worker before the crash.

Andriotis could not be reached for comment and his attorney did not return a message.

The public portion of Andriotis' Facebook page features photos of him, his wife and their two small children. In his profile, he describes himself as a "fixer of all things big and small."

•••

After the crash, the Scherers struggled to return to their former lives.
Jordan found himself staring at his computer screens at work but couldn't get anything done, so he resigned. Brooke taught one more semester and then tendered her resignation last summer. They decided to move back to Indianapolis to be closer to friends and family.

"Grief is a life sentence," Brooke Scherer said, "and your priorities change and your perspectives change and your motivations change."

The couple became hyper-aware of motorists around them looking down at their phones as they headed down the road, something the couple admits they used to do. They decided their new priority would be to channel their grief and use their story as a force for change.

They've formed a nonprofit called Living for Logan and plan to use their story to advocate for tougher laws and try to persuade drivers to put down their phones. They want to visit schools to speak with students and work with employers to make sure they create and enforce policies against phone use behind the wheel.

"We want people to ask themselves, 'What is so important about that text or whatever you're doing on your phone?'" said Jordan, 39. "Ninety-nine times out of 100, it simply isn't important."

As they advocate for tougher laws, Florida is a top priority. Under courrent law, texting while driving is subject to a $20 fine and no points on a driver's record, and Florida is one of only four states where texting while driving is not a primary offense, meaning police can't stop a driver solely for texting.

Some lawmakers are trying again this session to change that, and sponsors of the bill invited the Scherers to the Capitol this week to speak in favor of the bill.

On Tuesday, as they waited to board a flight to Tallahassee, the couple got a call from a Florida Highway Patrol sergeant who had news for them.
After a months-long investigation, Andriotis had been arrested in Volusia County and charged with vehicular homicide — a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison — and three counts of reckless driving resulting in serious bodily injury. Prosecutors have declined to comment on the case.

•••

Wearing pins bearing Logan's picture, the Scherers watched from the gallery this week as lawmakers debated the texting bill.

House Republican Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican and co-sponsor of the bill, called on them during a reading of the bill on Wednesday so they could tell their story. The next day, the Scherers were watching as the House voted 112-2 in favor of the bill.

"From this tragedy they've gotten the strength they need to fight," Toledo said. "People's stories do change minds about voting for texting while driving bans."

With a week left in the session, though, the bill's prospects look grim.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, refuses to hear the bill in his committee because of concerns about police searching through people's cell phones and the potential for racial profiling. Some Democratic lawmakers voiced similar reservations.

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The Scherers met with staff for Bradley and Senate President Joe Negron to try to persuade them to work through members' concerns about civil rights.

"What about Logan's right as a human to live his life?" Brooke said. "We don't get to see our child grow up, graduate from high school and college and get married. Those were our rights."

The couple say they will be back in Tallahassee next year if the bill doesn't pass.

"This is Logan's legacy," Brooke said, "and his death cannot be in vain."
Added Jordan: "It will not be."