Husband's plea after family tragedy

A DEVASTATED husband who lost his wife and three young children in a horrific car accident has urged his community to "cherish every second" with their loved ones in the light of the tragedy.

A DEVASTATED husband who lost his wife and three young children in a horrific car accident has urged his community to "cherish every second" with their loved ones in the light of the tragedy.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the incident, Airman 1st Class Curtis Hamilton told an emotional congregation at RAF Mildenhall he would not let last Friday's smash break his heart.

Cortina, 20, Jalin, five, three-year-old Alyssa and toddler Malik were all killed after their car collided with another vehicle and careered into a 20-foot ditch off the A1101 near Kenny Hill.

But during yesterday's memorial service, hundreds of servicemen and women gathered at the base's chapel were urged to celebrate the four lives rather than mourn their loss.

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Yet with a banner created by Jalin's classmates at Lakenheath Elementary School decorating the church wall, and a photograph of all five members of the Hamilton family placed at the front upon the altar, tears flowed amongst the congregation as the emotive service began.

Led by members of Mrs Hamilton's church, gospel music echoed around the chapel as a slide show, featuring pictures of all three smiling children and their mother on her wedding day, focused the minds of those present on how the four should be remembered.

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"Cortina loved me for a reason I will never know," Airman 1st Class Hamilton told the congregation. "We had hard times in the past, but I loved my wife and children.

"I do not want this tragic accident to break people down and break their faith. Do not let this break your heart.

"Some people wonder why I still say God is good, but it is because my wife and children are now in heaven with the Lord.

"I just want people to know that they should cherish every second they have with their family, friends and the people they love as if it is their last, because no-one knows when their day will come other than the Lord.

"When they pass, I want to make sure no-one has any regrets, because I know I have none."

During the hour-long service, moving tributes to a "beloved family" were paid by members of both the Hamilton's church – the New Life Bible Fellowship – and the American military.

A picture of a close-knit, devoted group emerged. Three-year-old Alyssa was described as a shy girl, who wanted to be a model. Mischievous Jalin, like any other five-year-old, was not always well behaved, and toddler Malik brought joy to all who knew him.

"I just cannot fathom that they are gone," said a tearful Technical Sergeant Ian Roper. "And no-one can understand what Curtis is going through. They were his heart and soul.

"I loved Cortina, Jalin, Alyssa and Malik dearly. Each of them had their own special thing to give to each and every one of us. I will never forget those times I watched them and played with them.

"They touched us deeply and dearly."

Also paying tribute, Lt Col Eric Lorraine said: "Words really cannot express the sadness and the sorrow we feel today. It is hard to come to terms with that Friday night. Young lives were taken in the wink of an eye and one man's life turned upside down and inside out.

"A squadron and family have mourned, and we have all tried to make sense of it all."

Following the service, Col Rick Devereaux, commander of the 100th Air Refuelling Wing, described the mood on base since the tragedy.

"Obviously this is a tough day for everyone here at RAF Mildenhall, and this service fortunately was a chance for many folks to reach closure on what has been a terrible tragedy," he said. "But the promise of knowing the family is in a better place is encouraging for the community.

"Anyone looking at a young father like Curtis immediately has great empathy at this terrible loss. All we can do is wrap our arms around him and support him.

"The mood on base is still very sombre. We are grieving quietly, but I think the service will start to move that grieving in a more positive direction."

Col Devereaux added that the Air Force would welcome any improvements made to the A1101, or any other hazardous stretch of roadway, in the light of the incident.

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