Taihape in shock over tragic death of popular and gifted student

By Lin Ferguson -
Taihape Area School principal Richard McMillan said everyone has been affected by the sudden death of student James Hamilton.
Taihape Area School principal Richard McMillan said everyone has been affected by the sudden death of student James Hamilton.

Last month shock waves reverberated around Taihape with the sudden death of a 16-year-old boy who was struck by a train, said Taihape Area School principal Richard McMillan.

James Hamilton a student at the school, was very popular, academically gifted and a fine sportsman, Mr McMillan said.

He died after being struck by a train in the town on March 16 about 1am.

Mr McMillan said the "huge tragedy" of James' death affected everyone at the school, both students and staff. Offers of help had been considerable, including an upcoming visit by mental health advocate and entertainer Mike King.

"The shock of James' death had a profound effect here at school and in this community.

"It was hard to think straight. We were given a huge amount of support, thank goodness.

"A trauma team came up from Whanganui and Youth Line counsellors were here immediately. I will be forever grateful to the Youth Line team. They were just brilliant."

School was a "very, very sad place."

"It was terribly difficult trying to cope and to restore some sense of normality."

And the sadness and the struggle were still going on, he said. James was farewelled at a funeral on March 21 at the Taihape Shearing Pavilion in Taihape Memorial Park, attended by the whole school and most of the community, he said.

Even though counsellors were still calling in to the school, Mr McMillan had been advised to also bring in entertainer and mental health educator Mike King. Mr King will be in Taihape on April 11.

He will be at the school to talk to students through the day and again that night to talk to the community for a gold coin donation.

"I'm told [Mike King] openly shares his experiences and really helps young teens cope with death. I'm very pleased he is coming here. We need him."

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