Madras Mom Seeks Justice in Son's Death

Recalls Happier Times -- Goes to Courthouse, Seeking Answers

MADRAS, Ore. - A grieving, tearful Madras mother whose 7-year-old son was struck and killed at a downtown sidewalk shared more memories Friday of the boy known to his family as "Ozzie," and also sought out Jefferson County prosecutors, wanting the driver to be held responsible.

"All morning, I've been sitting at my computer figuring out how long my son's been alive. He's been alive 2200 days and just a few short hours,? said Stacie Philibert.

Holding onto a baby photo of Austin Hatch, she took the first steps towards saying goodbye to her son, who was crossing the street with two older brothers, in a marked crosswalk, when he was struck by a car turning left.

"Both my boys said, 'How did this happen? The sign said 'walk,'" said Philibert, who contacted NewsChannel 21 hours after the crash and again Friday to share memories of her young son.

Ozzie was with his two older brothers when police say 64-year-old Dennis Kluser was driving east on D Street.

The morning sun would have been coming toward his windshield. The light turned green. Ozzie got the sign to cross.

Police say there is no indication Kluser was speeding, and there's no sign he under the influence. He was cited for careless driving and failure to yield to a pedestrian.

Frustrated more charges haven't been filed yet, Ozzie's mom, Stacy Philibert went to the Jefferson County Courthouse Friday, looking for answers.

"They don't like it when you run into a courtroom to talk to a district attorney," said Philibert.

Police say they are still working on the reports, the case heading to the district attorney for review.

For now, there are few answer for Ozzie's family, just precious memories and mementos, like Ozzie's last Mother's Day card and what he wrote inside.

"Mommy you hold my hand just for a short while but you hold my heart forever, love Austin," said Philibert, reading through the tears.


Here's information from our earlier story, by NewsChannel 21's Joe Burns and Barney Lerten:

The victim was identified as Austin Hollenbeak-Hatch, while the driver was Dennis Kluser, a 64-year-old Madras resident, said Assistant Police Chief Tanner Stanfill.

Police were called to the corner of Fifth and D streets around 7:47 a.m. Thursday on a reported vehicle-vs.-pedestrian collision, Stanfill said.

He said an investigation found that Hollenbeak-Hatch ?darted across the street in the crosswalk? and was struck by Kluser?s full-size 1999 Dodge pickup.

Kluser had been turning left from eastbound D Street to head north on Fifth Street when the collision occurred, Stanfill said. The boy was taken to Mountain View Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police investigating the scene determined the pedestrian and his two brothers had a ?walk? sign, while the driver had a green light.

?The morning sun was a factor in the collision,? Stanfill said in an updated news release late Thursday afternoon.

Oregon State Police assisted in the investigation, the assistant chief said, adding that all reports will be forwarded to the Jefferson County District Attorney?s Office for review.

The Bulletin reported Friday that a review of Kluser's driving record found three prior convictions -- one for driving without headlights in 1989, and speeding tickets in 2001 and 2005.

The child?s mother, Stacie Philibert, told NewsChannel 21 that her son was walking to the Madras Kids Club with his 8- and 12-year-old brothers, Cameron and Dominic, and were about two blocks from home when the crash occurred.

"He was seven, my little baby," Philibert said. "He was always smiling, he loved his Iron Man hat, he was just always full of life. He was the best kid in the whole entire freaking world."

Austin was supposed to start the day off bowling before hitting the swimming pool, two things he loved to do.

"Austin was an amazing child, always was so happy," Debbie Lish, Austin's grandmother. "We went to Disney World last September, and he loved that, I can't imagine life without Austin."

Philibert said it's a painful lesson about crosswalk safety for drivers.

"Look both ways, because you never know if a child is going to be walking through a crosswalk," Philibert said. "My boys were doing right -- they were walking when the crosswalk said 'walk,' and somebody didn't pay attention. And now me and my boys are going to have to suffer for the rest of our lives."

It's not the first tragedy to hit the family in recent times. Austins older brother, Cameron Hatch, drew community support early last year when he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumor, followed by radiation treatment.

ODOT reported around 8:15 a.m. that northbound Highway 97 would be closed at the intersection for an "extensive investigation." One northbound lane was reopened by about 8:30 a.m. A detour had been in place around the area, they said.

And it wasn't the region's only child cyclist-car crash of the morning. Around 9 a.m., a 13-year-old boy on a bike reportedly was struck by a car near the roundabout at Reed Market Road and Mt. Bachelor Drive. He was reported to be conscious but bleeding from the face.

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