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Banks boys schoolmates mourn along with family

After 11-year-old Philip Hunter Kollar dies of injuries from a car crash, his family donates his organs to others
by: Courtesy Photo, Philip Hunter Kollar, 11, was an avid horseman. He also loved to fish and hike. His classmates at Banks Elementary School, however, will remember his smile the most.

Banks Elementary school students wore pink last Friday to honor the memory of an 11-year-old classmate, ending a week of grief and sorrow following news that they had lost a beloved fifth-grade friend.

Philip Hunter Kollar, 11, died Tuesday afternoon after three days on life support at Oregon Health and Science University hospital following a harrowing rollover crash near Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood early this month.

Students and staff at Banks Elementary were floored by the news last Wednesday that Philip wouldn't be returning to class.

'It's gut-wrenching - there's just no two ways about it. They focus on this empty desk, and yet they know they have to move on,' said Bob Huston, Banks Elementary principal.

'As all good teachers do, they understand what is a teachable moment and what's not; Wednesday was not a teachable moment,' Huston said.

School guidance councilor DD Stillson set up a 'comfort room' where many students spent most of the day Wednesday, struggling to deal with the roller coaster of emotions that a young death elicits.

'They would be crying one moment and then they'd be laughing, remembering the humor of this wonderful boy,' Huston said.

Huston, who left Wisconsin last fall to begin his first year as principal at Banks, said that the community had opened its arms in a stunning way.

'In Wisconsin it wouldn't have been handled that way; it would have been much more impersonal,' Huston said. 'It's just amazing how people here come together and unite and take care of everyone.'

By Thursday, students and staff were working to return to their routines and also honor the memory of Philip. That's when the idea of students dressing in his favorite colors - pink, purple and green - was born.

Most students chose pink.

'It was just amazing how many students walked in wearing pink that day - even boys,' Huston said. 'It was really kind of a nice sight.'

The April 1 crash that sent Philip to OHSU happened just after 6 p.m., when his mother, Ruthanne Adams, 48, lost control of her 2001 Ford F-150 pickup heading downhill from Timberline Lodge.

The pickup hit a snow bank and rolled, eventually coming to rest on its wheels blocking the southbound (downhill) lane.

Adams and another son, 13-year-old Alex Kollar, were sent to OHSU with minor injuries and were released later. Both were wearing seatbelts.

But Philip, who was wasn't wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash and was thrown from the vehicle, was transported by LifeFlight helicopter to OHSU and remained in critical condition on life support until last Tuesday.

After his death, Philip's organs were donated to four different patients, leading to life-saving operations, including a lung transplant for a 32-year-old-woman suffering from cystic fibrosis and a liver transplant for an 8-month-old boy suffering from a condition that causes liver complications.

Philip loved the outdoors. He was an avid horseman, snowboarder and fisherman.

He loved fishing for largemouth bass and taking hikes on his family's forested property. But Huston said what he'll be remembered for most by the 609 students at Banks Elementary were the smile and laugh he brought to class each day.

'It's the most devastating event that could happen to staff and students, especially at an elementary school,' Huston said.