A 16-year-old Denair High School student critically injured in a vehicle collision three years ago died early this week.
The family of Merrick McIntire posted on Facebook that the teenager passed away Tuesday morning.
“It doesn’t make sense to us at all,” the McIntire family wrote. “He was so full of life Monday night showing his amazing improvement in his karate lesson. His doctors and therapists and so many of you have marveled along with us at the steps of unexplainable recovery he has made from his brain injury. He overcame so many challenges like a champion.”
Merrick sustained a severe brain trauma in a vehicle collision in June 2016. He and his family were in a 2006 Honda Odyssey that was struck from behind by a pickup truck while traveling on Highway 165 in Hilmar.
The California Highway Patrol stated at the time that the driver of the pickup truck, Savannah Gemperle, who was 20 years old at the time, was distracted and didn’t notice the traffic in front of her was slowing and coming to a stop.
Merrick was sitting in the right rear seat and was flown to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera with a severe head injury. The collision left Merrick, who was 13 years old at the time, with a permanent brain injury and he had to relearn numerous tasks and skills, but over the years he made remarkable strides. He enjoyed playing piano, video games, being out in nature, karate and riding his bike.
“People were his favorite things and there were no strangers, only friends yet to meet,” the family wrote. “Not many could get past him without some sort of rhyming song about their name. He just loved people.”
Merrick was a student at Denair High School and worked as a barista at the Coyotes Cup of Kindness.
“Merrick was loving, gentle, and the epitome of what Cup of Kindness stands for,” Cup of Kindness stated on Facebook. “We will always honor and remember him. Let’s all be a little more like Merrick.”
“Merrick McIntire was a vibrant, integral part of the Denair High School community,” Denair Unified School District wrote on Facebook. “His humor and wit were well known amongst students and staff. Merrick attended DHS since his freshman year and this year began working at Coyotes Cup of Kindness, our coffee cart as part of our Project Life program. He will be sorely missed.”
Merrick had a goal to become a pastor and didn’t see his injury as an obstacle.
“He often proclaimed openly and confidently that ‘my life, my condition, everything that happens to me is for God's glory,’” the family wrote. “Merrick loved God most of all. Merrick is not lost. He is safe and sound with His Lord and Savior whom he loved and worshiped unashamedly. Merrick wanted to be a pastor someday to help people know God's love. He would want everyone to know the way to join him.
“Merrick was not just our boy, he was everybody's boy. We grieve but not without the unshakeable hope that we will join him again where he is completely healed and able to see and move perfectly, unfettered of any deficiencies.”