Duluth teen injured in January 2012 accident now on life supportEverett Bergren, the Duluth teenager who was critically injured in a traffic accident that killed his grandmother nearly a year ago, will be taken off life support after his organs are donated, family members said Friday evening.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Everett Bergren, the Duluth teenager who was critically injured in a traffic accident that killed his grandmother nearly a year ago, will be taken off life support after his organs are donated, family members said Friday evening.
Bergren, who had improved enough to return to school part time, suddenly deteriorated after a scheduled surgery to replace his skull plate on Thursday at Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center. The plate had been removed because of an infection, said his aunt, Shelley Nicholson of Texas, who spoke for the family.
The surgery initially appeared to go well, Nicholson said, but complications developed later. A CT scan revealed extreme swelling of his brain, and as of 5 a.m. on Friday there was no brain activity. He is being kept on life support until his organs can be donated, Nicholson said. That is expected to take place sometime today.
“It’s true,” Nicholson said. “It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. I have a beautiful little video of him prior to the surgery yesterday and he was nervous, but he was excited.”
Thursday’s operation was the eighth the boy had undergone since the Jan. 19 accident on the 2900 block of Woodland Avenue as his grandmother, Paula Bergren, was driving him to school. According to police reports, a pickup truck driven by Hawk Patrick Edwards, then 19, crossed the center line and struck her vehicle.
Paula Bergren died from her injuries shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Everett Bergren suffered a traumatic brain injury and was placed on life support at Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center. But he began a gradual recovery. A March 16 News Tribune story, when he was being rehabilitated at Miller Dwan Rehabilitation Services, reported that he was able to speak a few words, propel himself on a wheelchair and feed himself.
Everett, who turned 14 in December, had made much more progress since then, Nicholson said. He was living in a foster home, able to walk, and was attending special education classes a couple of days a week at Hermantown Middle School. He wore a helmet much of the time because of the missing skull plate, which had been removed because of an infection, she said. He had been looking forward to not having to wear the helmet anymore.
Edward Everett Bergren, who always went by his middle name, was a seventh-grader at Jedlicka Middle School in Proctor at the time of the accident. He lived with his mom, Trista Turnbull, and two sisters in West Duluth but had spent the night before the accident at his grandmother’s. He wanted to be there to shovel for her in the morning because there was snow in the forecast, a Jan. 30 News Tribune story reported.
He was known for his love of all things outdoors, friends and family members said. “He’s been trapping and fishing and hunting since he was about 3½ months old,” said his grandmother, Tammy Mee of Duluth, in the March 16 story.
Edwards was found to have a 0.11 percent blood-alcohol level at the time of the accident. The legal limit to drive in Minnesota is 0.08 percent. In a plea agreement, he pleaded guilty on Feb. 16 to criminal vehicular homicide resulting in the death of Paula Bergren and to criminal vehicular operation causing great bodily harm for the injuries to Everett Bergren. He was sentenced to a total of eight years in prison, longer than the sentencing guidelines for those crimes.
Edwards, who had been living and working in Williston, N.D., at the time, expressed remorse for his actions. “It was my fault. I was drunk,” he told the court.
On Friday, Fred Friedman, the public defender who represented Edwards, said he and the Edwards family were aware of Everett Bergren’s deteriorating condition.
“The whole Edwards family feels terrible,” Friedman said. “They feel awful, as does my family. They offer their condolences.”
County Attorney Mark Rubin said the case against Edwards couldn’t be reopened because of the change in circumstances because of the constitutional guarantee against double jeopardy.