It’s always a tragedy when someone is killed in a traffic accident—especially someone young and full of promise and life.
And when there are questions and controversy about just how the accident happened, the grief goes even deeper.
Such is the case in the Nov. 1 death of 23-year-old Longbranch resident Amanda Hamlin.
She was headed home to watch the Seahawks game that rainy Sunday when she somehow lost control of her car and crashed into a power pole on the Key Peninsula Highway.
According to police reports, several witnesses said Hamlin was passing on curves going 75 mph.
“Speed was the factor that caused that accident,” said Pierce County Sherriff’s Department spokesman Ed Troyer.
“We had multiple witnesses who said she was going extremely fast, passing multiple cars and she lost control on a corner.”
Troyer added that the speed limit “is already high enough there and, if you start passing other cars, there’s not a lot of places you can go if you have a problem. You’re going to hit a pole or tree.”
Hamlin’s family says the police report simply is not true.
“She was not like that. She would never endanger anybody,” said Howard Hamlin, Amanda’s father.
“She was the most caring person in the world. She always wore her seat belt even as a little kid. She planned on being here for a long time.”
Cory Mason, Amanda’s fiancé, thinks she must have hydroplaned.
Beth Hamlin, Amanda’s sister, speculated that she might have hit a rough spot in the road.
“She was supposed to be home to watch the Seahawks game,” Mason said. “I went looking for her and I came across the scene and recognized the car. She hydroplaned on the highway going into Home heading toward Longbranch. They had to cut her out of the car.”
Lisa Hamlin, Amanda’s mother, had a similar experience.
“I was driving home and I drove past this wreck and I thought it looked like my daughter’s car.” Lisa Hamlin said. “I tried to call her cellphone but all I got was a busy signal so I called Cory and he said ‘Yeah, it’s Amanda.’”
“She was an extremely bright kid with an independent streak," said Howard Hamlin, Amanda’s father. “She was real—like a real country girl with no makeup or fancy clothes.
“I called her Big Red and she called me Daddy-O. She used to work with me doing construction work when she was just 15,” he said, surrounded by family in his kitchen, just days after the crash.
Amanda was studying to become a Jehovah’s Witness and had planned to attend their upcoming convention at the Tacoma Dome.
“She was five months pregnant with a little girl,” Mason said. “We were going to name her Harper.”
The Hamlins have lived on the Key Peninsula since 1996. Amanda went to Evergreen Elementary and Key Peninsula Middle School and attended Peninsula and Henderson Bay high schools. She earned her GED when she was 16, Lisa Hamlin said.
“She was the sweetest kid. She always got up early in the morning and always liked to go to school,” Lisa Hamlin said. “She would lay out her clothes the night before all by herself.”
Amanda and Cory had been friends since they were children, he said, and about three years ago they decided to get married. “She was so kind and considerate, she was never about me-me-me.
“We’ve been a team ever since we were together. She always wanted to help anybody that needed anything.”
Amanda’s grandmother, Tanya Allen, was one of those people. “She was very helpful to me when I was sick for two years. She came and cleaned house for me and just visited me and she called me all the time," Allen said.
Many people in the community knew Amanda, Howard Hamlin said, because she did caregiving for many elderly women and cleaned house for many of the older people near Longbranch where she lived.
Amanda also was the one who remembered birthdays and holidays and the one who brought the family together to do things, he said.
“She was kind of the glue that held her and her sisters together. She was the one who always tried to cheer us up.”
The family expressed gratitude for the many friends and neighbors who stopped by to help and offer condolences.
“We had so many people stopping by our house, her old friends, neighbors, people from the local stores, Linda from the Home gas station,” Lisa Hamlin said. "The community came out in force and also a lot of people from the Jehovah’s Witnesses church came out.”
Memorial services were held Nov. 14 at the Longbranch Improvement Club.
Key Peninsula Fire Department’s Chief Guy Allen expressed the department’s sympathy.
“These types of incidents are challenging for our people in many different ways,” Allen said.
“It’s difficult for us seeing people who are critically injured like that and then trying to do our job as best we can and get them to definitive care. And when it doesn’t end up being a positive outcome, sometimes there’s a little element in your mind that maybe you failed in doing what you’re trained to do.”
As to what actually caused the accident, Allen did not speculate.
“All we know is what was reported by several people," he said. "We don’t know for sure if at the time of the crash was she driving at a high speed. Maybe yes, maybe no. Only she knows.”
Amanda’s aunt, Harmon Stewart has set up an online fundraising account to help the family. To contribute visit youcaring.com/cory-mason-462329#.Vjqrkh5_aZV.facebook.
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS