Medical examiner: Firefighter's death ruled suicide after causing fatal crash

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The death of a Bastrop woman has been ruled a homicide after she was killed in a car crash that involved a firefighter with the Houston Fire Department. Firefighter Jason Hamilton's death has been ruled a suicide.

The crash happened shortly after rush hour on January 27 along I-10 near Brookshire. Hamilton's truck veered off the road, flipped, and smashed a small SUV being driven by Shelley McKay. Her daughter, Megan, was in the passenger seat.

Hamilton was thrown from his truck and killed. McKay was also killed at the crash site. Megan McKay was treated and released from the hospital.

McKay was laid to rest on Tuesday afternoon. Her friends and family remember the 62-year-old tennis player and gun club member fondly.

"Shelley was a very vibrant person with lots and lots of friends. She will certainly be missed," her husband told Eyewitness News after her funeral.

Meanwhile, Hamilton's friends and neighbors are still in shock.

"I don't believe it, not at all, not a chance," said Eric St. Germain, who lives next door to Hamilton and his family.

St. German is a paramedic, and has worked briefly with Hamilton at the Westlake Volunteer Fire Department.

"Good guy, I really liked him, good neighbor, no issues," he said.

Danny Gianfrancisco, who lives on the other side of the Hamilton home, also said his neighbor was a normal guy.

"He was in his garage lifting weights at five in the morning a lot, and uh, nice guy," he said.

However, Gianfrancisco did notice something unusual just hours before the deadly crash. He says three Precinct 5 Constable's vehicles were at the Hamilton home.

The Precinct 5 Constable's Office has confirmed to Eyewitness News that Hamilton's wife called, and filed a missing person's report on the fireman around midnight, just nine hours before he crashed and killed McKay.

Shelley McKay's family remembers her
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The Medical Examiner determines a fatal crash that resulted in the death of a woman was no accident.

"I was super surprised. I had no clue that happened, sad to see him go," said St. Germain.

The Houston Fire Department said in a statement:

"The Houston Fire Department is deeply saddened by this event and our hearts go out to all those affected by that tragic accident. Whether a firefighter or a private citizen, all life is precious. We ask that you keep your thoughts and prayers with all the victims' families and the survivor still recovering."

McKay, who lived in Bastrop, leaves behind a husband of 40 years and two daughters. She is also a breast cancer survivor. McKay's funeral was held Tuesday in Bastrop and attended by the Fire Chief of Westlake Volunteer Fire Department, where Hamilton worked part-time.

A toxicology test was conducted on Hamilton. Results are not yet available.

Texas DPS, who investigated the accident, said several written notes were found inside Hamilton's truck. However, a spokesperson says the notes were not signed, and could not be categorized as a suicide note.

The Houston Professional Firefighters Association released the following statement:

"The troubling circumstances of Jason Hamilton's death are a grim reminder of the prevalence of firefighter suicides and the terrible effects they have on families, friends and, in this case, innocent victims. Houston firefighters continue to grieve for the Hamilton and McKay families.

"Please continue to keep in your thoughts and prayers Jason's wife, Laura, and their two sons, Cody and Bruce. We ask the same for the family of Shelley McKay, especially Ms. McKay's daughter, Megan McKay, who was critically injured in the crash of the two vehicles.

"Looking ahead, we are working with the City of Houston, the Houston Fire Department, and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) to find ways to further strengthen our wellness and suicide prevention programs for Houston firefighters. This is a growing problem in Houston and around the nation, and we want to help efforts to prevent tragedies like this one and too many before it."
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