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After fatal accident, Grand Forks teen remains in memories of those who knew him

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The first week of school for Grand Forks Central High School students should have begun like any other -- new classes, new teachers, a reluctant return to homework after three months of freedom.

Matt Bacon, Drew Kraft and Wyatt White (left to right), all three close friends of McCain Endres, visit the memorial to their friend near Central High School in Grand Forks where he was killed in a car-motorcycle accident last May.JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The first week of school for Grand Forks Central High School students should have begun like any other -- new classes, new teachers, a reluctant return to homework after three months of freedom.

But some students say their perspective has deeply changed after one moment last spring forced them to lose a friend who was quick to bring a smile to their face. McCain Endres, 16, died in May after his motorcycle collided with a vehicle near the school.

Although many gestures have been made in Endres' memory -- from the distribution of blue wristbands bearing his name to vehicle stickers and memorial Facebook pages -- his friends, family and the girl who was involved in the accident continue to struggle with a death that took them by surprise.

Cause of death

The Grand Forks Herald recently obtained the police report detailing what happened that afternoon.


Several at the scene of the accident were caught off-guard by the sudden nature of Endres' death, which was listed in the report as hemorrhagic shock due to multiple blunt-force injuries.

Despite the severity of the accident, his immediate physical condition still gave them hope, according to several eyewitnesses. Police interviewed 14 people, a majority of them juveniles, along with other officers and adults who were present.

Endres had collided with a vehicle at North Sixth Street and Second Avenue North. Police say he was traveling on Second Avenue when he struck the car, driven by a female Central student, who pulled into the intersection from his left. The force of the impact sent his helmet flying toward a lamppost, where it shattered the light, according to witnesses.

No blood was immediately evident and everybody thought he just had a broken leg, eyewitnesses said. Some described Endres going into shock, his breathing shallow and rapid, but he was able to make eye contact with the crowd gathered around him.

Wyatt White, who was driving his motorcycle right behind Endres that day, said when paramedics asked him questions, Endres answered everything correctly.

"I remember when we went into the hospital room, his face and everything looked fine," said friend Kaitlynn Pocrnich. "It didn't look like there were any bruises or scratches on the outside."

But not all severely injured patients fit the picture of what a person in hemorrhagic shock looks like, according to a Mayo Clinic article.

"For example, children handle trauma better than adults do and compensate well," said Carol Immermann, a registered nurse at a Mayo Clinic hospital in Rochester, Minn. "They can be awake, alert, talking and behaving completely appropriately. Then suddenly we lose them."


Endres was placed on a helicopter to be flown to Fargo. As soon as the wheels got off the ground, he began to struggle to breathe, said his father, Tom Endres. His son died less than three hours after the crash.

Police ultimately found the teen who hit McCain had failed to yield to oncoming traffic. While there's not enough evidence to prove it, excess speed by Endres likely contributed to the crash, and White estimated he was driving 35 mph, the report said. Several cars were also parked along the curb near the intersection, which could have blocked the vision of the girl and contributed to the crash, the report said.

No charges will be filed in the accident, according to police.

Emotional aftermath

The crash survivor, who declined to be interviewed for this story, told police she'd received harsh criticism from several students on social media and was advised by friends to avoid it altogether.

Tom Endres, McCain's father, said his family isn't placing blame on the girl and it doesn't do any good.

According to McCain's friends, this attitude is a part of his personality. At a candlelight vigil on the family's lawn the day after the accident, he told an estimated 400 people who showed up that they would be welcome any time to stop and talk, according to Pocrnich.

"I just keep thinking we need to show people how to treat one another," Endres said. "We're all healing, and she's right on top of the list."


Tom Endres and his wife, Mary, invited her to the funeral, which she attended, and she told police she was surprised by how fast the couple reached out to her. She said she wanted to attend the funeral out of respect for Endres, especially as she was one of the last people to see him alive, according to the report.

At her first encounter with his parents, the first thing they did was hug her and tell her she wasn't at fault, she said in the report.

"It felt amazing to hear that. Because ... the only people that haven't told me it's my fault are my friends and my family," she said.

Endres' friends recognize how tough the aftermath has been for her. At the memorial site, Pocrnich said she followed instinct and walked up to her to give her a hug. Everyone else followed her lead.

White said he wouldn't wish her situation upon his worst enemy.

"The pain and stuff she must go through," he said. "I feel sorry for her. I hope the best for her. It's going to be hard."

Pocrnich said she thinks as many people as possible should let the girl know that it's going to be OK.

"That girl's going to have a tough time the rest of her life, having that weight to bear," she said. "I can't even imagine."


The nights are tough for everyone. The teen who hit Endres said she had horrible headaches after waking up and "felt really sick," while Endres' friends say they're haunted by images of him at the hospital and at the scene of the accident. Pocrnich said she started shaking once after hugging Endres' older brother, Taylor, who talks and acts similar to his brother.

"Sometimes, I can't even close my eyes because I was with him when it happened," White said. "I can see him go down."

Laughter as medicine

To cope, Endres' friends tell stories.

Between tears and laughter, they described a carefree boy who would do anything to get a laugh and was definitely mischievous. He'd drive up to the McDonald's drive-thru window with friends, claiming they didn't get their order of fries so they could get one for free, and he always wanted to hide on the golf course so he could startle golfers with an air horn, they said.

His thirst for fun bordered on impatience. On the day he received his motorcycle, he demanded that his friend White accompany him on a ride, even though there was still snow on the ground.

"He'd find something new and he wanted it done yesterday," said White, smiling. "It had to be done that minute, that day."

Endres also took great pride in his hair. Famous for his perfectly coiffed "wings" of his mop-ish hair, several attempted to replicate the image but failed, they said. The method behind his hair was top secret, too. Once, when friend Drew Kraft tried to get in the bathroom while Endres was doing his hair, Endres slammed the door shut and locked it, Kraft recalled.


"If you touched it, he'd break your arm," friend Matt Bacon said.


Endres' friends and family continue to take their lives one step at a time.

His parents collect money for the fund named after their son but haven't decided what to do with it yet. Tom Endres has considered setting up a scholarship of some kind for an average kid, just like McCain was, he said.

"We're in the early stages with it," he said.

White said he made a promise to Endres that he would visit his grave or the memorial site once a day if not every other day.

"I feel like he's right there with me," he said.

Several of Endres' friends say his death spurred a new appreciation for life and personal safety, especially on motorcycles. Pocrnich said his death opened her eyes to her own vulnerability. No one is invincible, she said.


"It sounds so cliché, but it's true," she said. "Things do happen, and it can happen, at any second, any moment. It was just a normal day for him, and then this happened."

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