The two Walt Whitman High School juniors were best friends; they saw a lot of movies, played sports and spent all their spare time together. But this week, as they started their summer vacation at the beach, their three-year friendship ended tragically when one of the 16-year-olds accidentally shot and killed his friend.

Robert Jordan, of 8308 Still Spring Ct., Bethesda, was rushed by helicopter Tuesday to the Baltimore Shock Trauma Unit after being shot with a .45-caliber pistol, Rehoboth Beach police said yesterday. He died five hours later. His friend, who is not being named because he is a juvenile, has been charged with criminal negligent homicide, police Cpl. Marshall Lewis said.

The sudden death has left both families stunned, and the youth who was charged had to be sedated and taken to a hospital following the shooting, Lewis said. Yet Kenneth Jordan, Robert's father, said that despite the loss of his son, he hopes the charges will be dropped.

"I really think this is a complete accident," Jordan said. "If it having the charges dropped can limit the amount of pain he's had, I think it's for the better. Right now, he's in a very bad state."

The friend has been released to his parents' custody on a $50,000 bond, according to police.

The youth's mother stood on the front lawn of her home on Wapakonata Road in Bethesda yesterday and said she would not comment because Carol Jordan, Robert's mother, asked her not to. She did say that her son is at home and doing the best that could be expected under the circumstances.

Police said Robert Jordan was visiting Rehoboth Beach with his friend and his friend's family. About 10 persons were in the house at the time of the shooting, they said. The youth charged in the death found the gun in his brother's suitcase, and he and Jordan had been playing with it for a few minutes when he fired a single shot that hit Jordan, according to police.

"It was new to them," Kenneth Jordan said. "Neither of them had ever seen a gun before, or at least handled one."

The youth's 25-year-old brother has been charged with possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Lewis would not comment on the older brother's conviction, but said he is being held at Sussex County Correctional Institution in Delaware.

At the Jordan home yesterday, the family quietly mourned and prepared for the funeral. Alan Taylor, 24, the fiance of Robert Jordan's sister, remembered Robert as a student interested in mathematics and science.

He said Robert was just starting to map out what he wanted to do in life. "It's just horrible that he had to have his life snuffed out like that," Taylor added.

Kenneth Jordan said the youths' friendship began when they met three years ago at Pyle Junior High School in Bethesda. He said the friend often would spend the night at the Jordan home.

He said Robert and his friend would "bum around" playing video games and go fishing together.