Wife, children of Mildenhall airman killed in car crash
October 2, 2003
RAF MILDENHALL, England — The commander and members of the 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron are supporting a colleague who lost his entire family in a horrific traffic crash Friday evening near RAF Mildenhall, England.
Airman 1st Class Curtis Hamilton’s wife, Cortina, 20, and three young children were killed when their Honda Accord collided with another car on the A1101 about five miles from the base.
The children were Jalin, 5, Alyssa, 3, and Malik, 22 months.
The two people in the other car, including an American servicemember from the base, were not seriously injured and their names have not been released.
The accident is under investigation by the Suffolk police.
The Hamilton car came to rest on its roof in a water-filled ditch next to the road. Several people waded in waist-deep water in an effort to rescue them. The children were retrieved from the car, but efforts to revive them failed and they were pronounced dead at the roadside. Their mother, too, died at the scene.
“It doesn’t get much worse than this,” said Lt. Col. Eric Lorraine, the squadron commander who had the task of informing his airman of the tragic news.
He described Hamilton, 22, as “numb” and said the squadron was shaken by the news, but doing what it could for their colleague.
“You just take care of the guy,” Lorraine said Wednesday afternoon. “There’s nothing too big, nothing too small [to do for him]. I’ve been involved in other tragedies, but nothing like this where a guy loses his entire family.
“The squadron does what squadrons do. They rally around and take care of the guy that needs help. It’s not just the squadron. It’s the base.”
Lorraine said a humanitarian package is being prepared to transfer Hamilton to a base in the Virginia area, closer to his family. The squadron will prepare the family’s household goods for the move so Hamilton will not have to return to England following the funerals of his wife and children. He leaves at the end of this week.
A memorial service is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the base chapel.
The crash was the third involving fatalities from the base in recent months along the same stretch of road. Staff Sgt. Gerald Nicholls, 32, was killed in a two-car crash on March 7. Andrew Waxler, the husband of an airman at the base, was killed two weeks later in a one-car accident on a foggy morning.
Capt. Shane Balken, public affairs spokesman for RAF Mildenhall, said the base plans an extensive look at driving safety of servicemembers both at RAF Mildenhall and at nearby RAF Lakenheath to determine if anything can be done to limit the accident rate.
“We focus a lot on servicemembers, but we’ve got to focus on family members, as well,” he said.
The Air Force will look at traffic statistics from area police forces to identify areas that might be particular trouble spots, Balken said, or determine if factors such as driver training, fatigue or weather play a role. Lorraine said the squadron is also putting a greater emphasis on traffic safety, especially as the dark, cold days of winter approach.
The accident Friday has prompted calls in the local press for safer roads, particularly A1101. It is a two-lane road heavily traveled by Americans who live in Littleport or Ely, where a military housing area is located. The Hamilton family lived there. The road has several curves, some of which require a great drop in speed. Much of it is flanked by deep ditches that often are filled with water.
Mary Crane, a local county councilor, has been a critic of the road for years. She was quoted in one news report expressing frustration that nothing has been done.
“The whole thing needs looking at,” she told the Eastern Daily Press. “I don’t think it’s being given the prominence and urgency it deserves.”