Nikiski teen moving on after accident

Posted: Monday, April 03, 2000

Phillip Kensinger never liked guns, yet he has overcome major obstacles thrown in his path and learned the virtue of forgiveness due to a disastrous accident caused by one.

At around 11 p.m. on Oct. 16, Kensinger was at a friend's home. He was severely injured when a friend brought out his new shotgun and it discharged unexpectedly.

The load of shot entered his right cheek, traveled through the palate of his mouth and exited his left cheek. He was rushed to Central Peninsula General Hospital, then transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

After being shot, he remained in serious but stable condition in Seattle for more than a month.

He returned home just a few days before Thanksgiving.

To raise money for the 15-year-old, two students at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School organized a dance shortly after the shooting, and there was a penny drive, several benefit dinners and many collection cans placed throughout the peninsula.

Kensinger's brother Billy, 17, said more than $10,000 was raised to help with medical expenses.

Phillip said his feelings are indescribable about the community outreach in Nikiski.

"It completely blew my mind," he said.

During the first of several reconstructive surgeries, doctors put a titanium plate in his chin, rebuilt his lower jaw and took bone from the top of his head to form new bones under his eyes.

He was unable to speak for more than a month and communicated through hand signals and notes.

Doctors have told Phillip his recovery will be a two-year process.

"He looks good for what happened," Billy said.

He was known throughout the peninsula and across Alaska as the rhythm guitarist in Badge, a group he and his three brothers formed with their father's help. He still plays guitar in his spare time.

After months of recovery, Phillip said, he is the same person with just a different look.

He currently is taking correspondence classes for school and has plans of returning as a junior at Nikiski next year.

"I can't wait to go back," he said.

Phillip said he harbors no ill feelings for the friend whose gun discharged. He said he sees the tragedy as an accident and has forgiven him.

Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Steve Bear said the investigation of the shooting is finished, but charges of reckless endangerment were forwarded to the district attorney for review.

More surgery is planned this month for Phillip. Surgeons will take bone and tissue from his leg and reconstruct his palate and upper jaw.

"He is doing fine. He's still a brat," Billy said, joking.

Phillip plans to attend college after graduation but has not decided which college or what major to pursue.

One thing that Phillip is sure of, though, are his feelings about guns.

"I still don't want anything to do with them," he said.

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