Kelly Jane Phillips was born March 14th, 1990 in Minnetonka, Minnesota. As a senior in Minnetonka High School, she was a natural leader. She was a member of the National Honor Society and the Tonka Leadership Challenge. She was a member of Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church where she was on the youth board and was a counselor at Cathedral of the Pines Church Camp. She was an avid downhill skier and lived every day to the fullest. She believed her values and compassion would drive her to success in the future. She wanted to make a difference every day – and she did, and will continue to do so as her organs were donated to several other people.
More than 100 friends of Kelly Phillips waited at the Hennepin County Medical Center on September 21, 2007 — the night she was involved in a crash that resulted in her death. The Minnetonka High School senior was riding with her friend Kylie to a bonfire to meet up with friends. About a half mile away, the vehicle went off the road at a curve and rolled — ejecting Kelly and killing Kylie. According to the Minnesota State Patrol crash investigation, Kylie was either texting or using an iPod just prior to the crash. Kelly died a day later. Kylie’s cousin, who was wearing a seat belt, survived. Kelly’s parents say she always wore a seat belt — but because of a last-minute change of plans, Kelly was riding in the back seat of a vehicle that lacked working seat belts. “I am sure she was uncomfortable riding without a belt, but she probably figured one ride wouldn’t kill her,” says her father, Dan. “Everyone knew how responsible Kelly was — she never drank, and always wore a seat belt. It seemed like Kelly would be the last person to be killed like this.”
This violent crash that claimed the lives of two teens reveals common themes reported in many traffic crashes involving teenagers: multiple teen passengers, other distractions, nighttime driving and seat belt non-use. Kelly’s father says she connected with everyone and touched many hearts — her teachers, fellow students, kids she counseled at camp and her church community. Kelly, a national honor society student and an athlete, had been working on college applications prior to the crash. Today, Kelly’s parents have a foundation in her name and they plan to speak to parents and teens about the importance of safe driving habits and eliminating driver distractions.