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Cobber alum survives flaming car accident

Olivia Hamilton’s (’18) works for the Nevada Conservation Corp at work sites like this. HAMILTON.

Olivia Hamilton graduated from Concordia College in May 2018. Now, she is spending her first year of post-graduation life working for the betterment of our earth and our lives with the Nevada Conservation Corp. She’s enjoyed the many challenges at her new job, which is not without struggle.

A Moorhead native, Hamilton began her college career at Concordia in 2014, where she has plenty of family ties. Hamilton started shortly after her older brother graduated in May 2014, and was followed by her younger sister, who began shortly after Hamilton finished. Her father is cello professor, Greg Hamilton, and her mother used to work in Concordia’s music department as well. Hamilton used her four years here to study biology as well as participate in cross country and track.

After her graduation in May, Hamilton took some time to travel to Australia, then moved to Las Vegas to begin her position as a trail crew member in the Nevada Conservation Corp. This year is serving as a short break before Hamilton starts grad school next fall in conservation biology/sciences. This position is right in Hamilton’s wheel house.

“I love the outdoors, so this job was a great opportunity for me to learn new skills,” Hamilton said, “as well as meet people from many different backgrounds.”

The job is far from easy. Most of Hamilton’s work is manual labor in a desert ecosystem, which means extreme heat with little shade. She also frequently camps up to seven nights in the wilderness while on the job. Her ability to perform these strenuous physical activities required was struck severely just a couple weeks ago.

Early on Monday, Oct. 22, Hamilton was en route to her worksite for the week, accompanied by some coworkers on their three hour drive. About an hour into the drive, the truck was struck by an oncoming vehicle. As they were traveling north, a car traveling south suddenly swerved into their lane. They hit the car going 70 miles per hour, and the car’s front left bumper hit their front right, sending their four door truck spinning.

“The truck I was in immediately caught flame, most likely from the impact to the fuel container,” Hamilton said.

The truck also had propane tanks in the back, which likely didn’t help deter the fire. Hamilton was the only one out of her three coworkers to receive injuries that warranted a trip to the hospital.

“I was sitting behind the driver, so once the car stopped spinning I had no choice but to leave the vehicle as quickly as possible before it became completely engulfed,” Hamilton said.

While leaving the truck, Hamilton received mostly second degree burns on her hands and face. Hamilton was transported to the hospital in Las Vegas where she stayed for several days.

Despite the shocking and scary situation, Hamilton and her family are remaining positive. After sustaining those injuries, Hamilton will likely not return to her job with the Nevada Conservation Corp. But, she would like to get working as soon as she is physically able to, likely in a lab at a university, while she waits to begin graduate school. Throughout this struggle and setback, Hamilton is nothing short of grateful for the way things went in that accident.

“It’s very important to take time your of your day to reflect and be thankful before it’s too late,” Hamilton said. “I lost many personal items in the wreck because of the fire, but nothing compares to walking away with my life.”

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