Family and friends want answers in ATV death

dgoodhue@keysreporter.comJuly 12, 2014 

A Florida man died in the North Carolina mountains last week after riding an all-terrain vehicle into a metal cable that someone slung across a path between two trees.

Family and friends of Shane Hamilton question whether he was the victim of foul play.

But the Swain County Sheriff’s Office says the crash was an accident and it is no longer investigating. Authorities told Shane Hamilton’s family and friends that the wire was meant to be some sort of private property marker and that Hamilton was knowingly or unknowingly trespassing when he drove his ATV through the path. The Hamiltons live in Key Largo, Fla.

But in photos given to a reporter, the cable appears to be an almost concealed booby trap, hung over the path about a foot off the ground. Covering just the few feet of width between the two trees, it looks nothing like a makeshift fence or marker roping off property boundaries.

Swain County Sheriff Curtis Cochran would only say that the crash was an accident before cutting off a brief interview. Cochran said he would not provide details about the crash because Hamilton’s family is still grieving.

Chief Deputy Jason Gardner would not comment beyond saying there will be “no investigation,” and that the “case is closed.”

He then said he could not answer any more questions about Hamilton before hanging up the phone.

Mark Page, Hamilton’s friend and business partner, traveled to Swain County to drive Hamilton’s wife, Karrissa, and his two children back home to Key Largo.

“The cops I talked to were not very helpful at all,” Page said. Hamilton family members declined to speak about the case. Page fielded questions on their behalf this week.

It’s not clear who owns the property, but nowhere in the photos is there a sign indicating the path is on private property, nor is any “no trespassing” sign visible.

Hamilton, 45, was driving the ATV on July 3 on a wooded trail near the cabin he and his family rented. His 10-year-old son, Shane Jr., was riding on the back of the ATV.

Page said the wire caught the ATV’s front tires just minutes into the trip. As the fast-moving vehicle kept moving forward, the wire made its way over the handlebars and struck Hamilton below the ribcage.

His son flew over Hamilton’s shoulders and missed the wire. He was not hurt. Photos show pieces of the ATV hanging from the wire.

A helicopter ambulance flew Hamilton to Mission Health Hospital in Asheville. Hamilton died in the hospital on July 4.

Assistant Swain County District Attorney Jim Moore said he could not comment on whether his office is investigating the incident, but he added that the DA’s office typically does not conduct separate investigations from the Sheriff’s Office.

Shane Hamilton is survived by his son, Shane Jr., wife Karrissa and his 16-year-old daughter, Savanna.

Observer staff writer Fred Clasen-Kelly contributed to this report.

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