By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A Chinook man was killed in a single-vehicle crash this weekend, the Montana Highway Patrol said today.
Garrett McHenry, 23, was found dead in his pickup about 7:30 p.m. Saturday east of Chinook, patrol officer Sam Goodemoot said.
McHenry's 1988 Ford pickup had crashed through a guard rail along U.S. Highway 2, coming to rest in Lodge Creek, Goodemoot said.
McHenry had recently returned to the Chinook area from Hawaii, where he spent four years in the Army, his mother, Leta Campbell, said today.
"He was such a neat kid," Campbell said. "He loved life. He loved being with his friends. He loved to hunt and fish. His biggest passion was baseball, then softball when he was in the military. Playing baseball was his absolute favorite thing in the world. He always said, 'You don't have to be great to play, but if you play long enough, you will always have your day in the sun.'"
McHenry had taken the summer off after returning from Hawaii and was planning to attend school soon, Campbell said.
"He had wanted to take the summer off and said he just wanted to relax," she said. "He was looking at heating and air conditioning school. He was ready to get on with his life."
McHenry joined the Army shortly after high school, his mother said. During his stay in Hawaii, he acquired a taste for sushi, she added.
"He loved raw fish. A couple a weeks ago he was trying to convince a friend to send him dried raw fish."
Campbell said her son left her with no shortage of memories.
"I have millions of stories," she said. "I remember the first time he got a hit in baseball. Of course I'll never forget the day he left for the Army. I was so scared and so worried. He was so strong, and he just didn't know what to do with a weeping mother. Then there was the day he shot his first deer. He was so proud of that. That was quite a day."
Campbell said the day McHenry graduated from boot camp was one of the proudest of her life.
"He said going to any football camp was tougher than boot camp," she said. "He was a pretty tough kid."
McHenry was an avid sports fan, his mother said, adding that her favorite memory of her son stemmed from a charity basketball game in Great Falls when he was about 10 years old.
"Garrett was a diehard Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos fan," she said. "The Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings were playing a charity basketball game in Great Falls. So we went to it, and he was completely decked out in Broncos gear. He was so excited."
The two were in the stands when one of the Broncos' linemen approached McHenry, Campbell said.
"He came over and said to Garrett 'Let's see what you got,'" she said. "So Garrett took out that ball from the free throw line and made a perfect swish. About 4,000 people in the fieldhouse just went crazy. I'll never forget that as long as I live."
Campbell said she is grateful for the support she has received from the community since her son's death.
"It takes a village to raise a child and this a wonderful village to raise your children in," she said.
Justin Friede, a 2000 graduate of Chinook High School, called McHenry's death tragic. The two played together on the Chinook High School football team.
"It's sad," he said. "Garrettt was a really good guy."
McHenry's truck was found in Lodge Creek about a half a mile east of Chinook, Goodemoot said. It appeared the vehicle had been there for some time, possibly since early Saturday morning, he said.
"The vehicle was headed east out of Chinook," he said. "It was nearing Lodge Creek when it drifted off the north side of the road. The truck approached the creek, went through the guard rail and became airborne. The truck landed head first on the east bank of Lodge Creek and came to a rest on the driver's side."
McHenry was last seen at 12:40 a.m. Saturday in Chinook, Goodemoot said.