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Jennnifer Johnson, Forum News Service, Published May 23 2013

Grand Forks Central High School students grieve for classmate killed in accident

GRAND FORKS – Dozens of Grand Forks Central High School students linked arms and shed tears Thursday as they slowly approached a memorial at the scene of an accident that killed their 16-year-old classmate McCain Endres a day earlier.

In the final days of the school year, students who would normally be anticipating the start of summer were instead overcome with grief.

As school officials prepared for senior high graduation, more than 100 students circled around the intersection of North Sixth Street and Second Avenue North to leave gifts or to sign the base of a lamppost, which was surrounded by flowers and teddy bears. Each student was dressed in blue, Endres’ favorite color.

Without a word, one student clutched the hand of another, and within a minute the whole group spread apart and linked hands. One student started to pray. After some time, another student broke from the circle, kneeled down before the memorial and cried.

‘Positive guy’

“It’s hard to accept that I’m never going to see him again,” said Endres’ friend Travis Willson, 17, who watched the accident from a block away.

Grand Forks police are still investigating the accident. According to their report, Endres was riding a motorcycle on Second Avenue when he struck the car that was pulling into the intersection from his left. The 17-year-old driver of the car, identified by bystanders as a Central student, was uninjured.

Several of Endres’ friends and fellow students kneeled before the lamppost to write their thoughts, prayers and memories of a teenager who loved hockey and was known for his smile.

“He was always a positive guy,” said Willson, who gave a speech in class in memory of Endres. “He would mess with people, but they always knew that he was joking.”

Tyler Amundson, who had known Endres since he was in elementary school, said his friend talked about his future career on the last day he was alive.

“I talked to him every day in English,” he said. “He did a speech actually yesterday about being a cop.”

Amundson said he wasn’t at the scene of the accident but thought his friend would be OK after hearing initial reports that he’d suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Once he checked his Twitter feed, he saw post after post of student condolences saying “Rest in peace, McCain,” he said.

“I broke down right there,” he said. “It was too much. It was very surprising.”

Response

In less than 24 hours, the feeling inside Central High School had changed dramatically, students said.

Hallway chatter was replaced with silence and an “awkward tension” as students processed the accident, and with finals that day, teachers didn’t want kids getting too distracted, said Amundson, who shared a class with one student who kept breaking down during testing.

At Red River High School, school officials held a moment of silence and more than half the student body wore blue, said students.

“I’m shocked,” said Red River freshman Tehya Price. “You’d never think that he’d pass so soon.”

Endres’ parents declined to comment.

Friends planned to hold a vigil Thursday night.

Student support was evident the night of the accident, when about 600 to 800 kids visited the memorial, said Mike Kraemer, a security staff member for Central who directed traffic around the area.

“I made sure a couple of kids who were really taking it hard weren’t alone when they left,” he said.

School counselors were on hand Thursday for students to turn to if they needed them, said Central Principal Buck Kasowski. But he said the memorial provided students with “a great way to grieve and to get connected to their classmates,” he said.

“I personally think it’s just going to take some time,” he said.