Friends and family spent the week recalling the all-too-brief but action-packed life of Miles Hamilton.
The 18-year-old Elmira man was killed Oct. 22 when the black Dodge pickup truck he was a passenger in crashed into another truck parked on Elmira’s Barnswallow Drive, subsequently bursting into flames.
Police say they pulled Miles and the driver of the vehicle, 17-year-old Brendon Fitzgerald, from the wreckage, but Miles was pronounced dead at the scene. Brendon was rushed to Hamilton General Hospital, where he remains in serious condition. Police continue to investigate the incident.
Miles, whose funeral was on Thursday afternoon at Woodside Bible Fellowship, was remembered by his family and his friends as an active, ambitious and adventurous teen.
“He was just a smiling, happy people-person,” said Miles’ father, Jim. “He never really didn’t have a smile on his face. My nickname for him was ‘Smiley.’”
Miles Price Hamilton was born in Guelph on July 25, 1992 to Jim and Brenda Hamilton, and was the youngest of five children. He had two older sisters, Chloe and Avery, as well as two older brothers, Kalen and Ruben. The family was raised in Ariss, and Miles moved to Elmira about six years ago.
He attended Park Manor Public School for Grade 8, then went to high school at EDSS, where he quickly made friends. Jim said his son would always go out of his way to meet new people, and to try and find something in common with everyone. The teachers and students of EDSS have even placed a memorial in the front foyer in Miles’ honour, including photos, a skateboard, and some of his favourite clothes.
“He was a loving, loving kid. He would do anything for you,” said Kathie Citrigno, Jim’s partner.
Miles learned to ride his bicycle when he was three years old, and hated to be cramped inside, recalls Kalen.
Nearly every photo of Miles shows him doing something outdoors: four-wheeling, water-skiing, hunting, camping or skateboarding. He enjoyed it all.
Miles was perhaps most skilled at working with his hands. His father said he loved to take things apart just to see how they worked, or to see how he could make it work even better.
“I remember the day he bought his mini-bike,” said Jim. “The guy was selling it because he couldn’t get it to work and Miles had it running before we even got it up on the trailer.”
Not only was Miles mechanically inclined, he enjoyed driving heavy machinery as well. His affinity for machinery and for working with his hands began at a young age. Jim said he used to put Miles to sleep by holding him in his arms while driving around on the lawnmower.
“It was never big enough, never fast enough,” said Kalen. “He could drive dump-trucks and loaders better than people who did it professionally.”
Ironically, the young man who seemed fearless and immune to pain was actually scared of heights. He tried to remedy that fear while Kalen was working as a volunteer firefighter in Elmira by asking him to take him up to the top of the ladder, which Kalen said didn’t work.
Like many youth his age, Miles had trouble deciding on what he wanted to do with his life – “it depends what week you asked him,” said Jim with a laugh – and Miles even entertained the thought of becoming a helicopter pilot, despite his intense fear of heights. The one thing that always remained the same, however, was his attention to detail.
“He used to say, ‘If I’m going to do something, it’s going to be done right,’” said Jim.
After a couple of seasons of landscape work, Miles got a job with Elmira Machines Industries Inc. On the day of the accident that claimed his life, Miles had been promoted to the pump department.
“He was really excited,” explains Jim. “He was able to help build the pumps and he had only been there for a few months.”
On the night of the accident the family had actually discussed his future plans, and what he wanted to do. Jim said Miles was considering going to college for business training so that some day he could own and operate his own business. He was one credit short of graduating from EDSS, but planned to complete it online.
Miles was planning to attend a graduation party with some of his friends from EDSS the night he died. He had only been gone for about an hour-and-a-half before the accident.
Brendon Fitzgerald was behind the wheel the night Miles died, but the family does not hold his death against Brendon or his family.
“We want them to know that we are thinking about them, we wish them the best,” said Kathie. “Our hearts are with them.”
Jim said that Brendon – whom he refers to as “Fitzy” – was one of the nicest young men he had met, and was always courteous and polite to the family whenever he came over to visit.
“I want them (the Fitzgeralds) to know that we are certainly thinking of them. It’s an innocent thing that happened, we don’t lay any blame,” Jim said.