Hamilton family grapples with the loss of a son

Tom Hamilton was killed in an avalanche in McBride B.C.

  • Mar. 26, 2015 4:00 p.m.

BY JEFFREY HEYDEN-KAYE

courtesy of Ponoka News

The tragic death of Tom Hamilton in an avalanche has reverberated through the community of Ponoka.

Hamilton, 29, was snowmobiling with three friends in McBride, B.C. March 21st when the snow started to break apart from right beneath him. He and another friend, Curtis Fries from Sherwood Park, were unable to escape the avalanche in time and they were buried.

“As he was turning around, the avalanche let loose underneath Tom,” explained his father Jim Hamilton. “The whole plateau let loose.”

He said the other two snowmobilers were able to locate Fries’ emergency beacon. They were able to dig him out but he succumbed to his injuries. The four riders had proper safety equipment.

Search and rescue crews searched for Tom’s body, but they had to call off the search as the evening wore on. He was found the next day approximately 15m under where Fries was found. Hamilton said their emergency beacons were right on top of each other, which made it difficult to locate Tom’s body.

“That we get to bring him home and give him a proper burial is huge to me and to his wife,” said Hamilton. “Until he’s found, you’re praying he’s alive. You know it’s not likely.”

Tom leaves behind a young family with his wife Amanda and two young children, Kaitlyn and James.

As his children will never know what their father was like, Amanda has requested people who knew Tom write a story about him and his life. As they grow older, she hopes to pass on these stories to her children.

Tom’s death has also created a void in Jim’s life; not only was he his son, but Tom and Jim were partners at Hamilton’s IGA.

“I’m scared,” said Jim simply. “I don’t know how I can do it without him.”

He has received hundreds of emails and calls from the many people who knew Tom and each one has been about the lasting memory he had on them.

Tom could be found in many parts of Ponoka. While he was a fixture at the store, he was also a big advocate of community events. He was past-president of the Ponoka Kinsmen and was always busy during Ponoka Stampede.

Tom’s good nature and work ethic is another thing Jim is proud of.

He told the story of Tom working at a plant picking lettuce some years ago. Tom had to take on extra work to cover a sick employee and in an effort to be efficient, Tom managed to do the work of two people.

That work ethic got other staff members in trouble and he was told to reduce the workflow.

“So he got his back up and the next day he bribed the kid beside him to move down one and he did three rows to prove a point. And he got fired,” explained Jim fondly.

It was this kind of work ethic that Jim loved about his son, who was on his way to being a fourth generation owner of Hamilton’s IGA. Jim said most families don’t make it past three generations. “We found a way to make it work,” he said.

Tom was getting so good at the job that when Jim was dealing with an injury last year, his son handled it well. “We actually made more money with my leg when I was at home than I did when I was there.”

Jim said they were in the midst of planning a surprise birthday party for Tom, who was going to turn 30 on April 30th. There were no details at the production time on a funeral date.

In the meantime, Ponoka Kinsmen, where Tom served as president between 2011 and 2013, has announced that a decision was made to dedicate the toboggan hill, which the deceased was so instrumental in creating, to his memory.

“Any donations can be made to the Tom Hamilton Memorial Hill through the Ponoka Kinsmen,” said the press release issued by the organization.

 

Just Posted

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

The Sylvan Lake Gulls show off the home jerseys (white) and their way jerseys at the Gulls Media Day on June 17, before the season opener. Following the media day, the team took to the field for their first practise. (Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News)
Sylvan Lake Gulls ready to throw first pitch as construction continues

The Gulls inaugural season kicks off June 18 with a game against the Edmonton Prospects

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Flora Northwest was taken to the Ermineskin residential school when she was six years old. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ermineskin residential school survivor: ‘It just brings me back to the cries at night’

Discovery in Kamloops of remains of 215 children a painful time for survivors

Most Read