Charlton County Herald,

December 30, 1987

The cold December wind whipped around some fifty people assembled for the dedication ceremony of the new helipad at Charlton Memorial Hospital as they listened to Camden County Sheriff William “Bill” Smith. Smith paid tribute to Nicki Coleman saying, “This pad will serve as a life flight for help and hope to this community. Nicki Coleman served his life helping people and this memorial will live forever in his memory.”

The new helipad donated by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Coleman was dedicated December 29, in a beautiful and touching ceremony, in memory of their son Walter Nathan “Nicki” Coleman who was killed in 1985 while serving as a deputy under Sheriff Smith.

Charlton Hospital Authority member Reverend George Chisholm of St. George said in dedicating the pad, “Many people have served this county to improve medical services in this area and this is yet another link in the chain of extended health care to this community.” Chisholm went on to say, “The greatest gifts come from love and it is out of the love of the family that this gift was made.” At Chisholm’s request family members, community leaders, hospital staff and friends joined “their hands and hearts” encircling the helipad as the dedication prayer was given.

Until the completion of the helipad last week, University Hospital’s Trauma One and Baptist Memorial Hospital’s Life flight helicopters landed in the grassed area close to the emergency room entrance. According to hospital sources the area was ot lit and patients had to be wheeled over a curb and through the grass.

Safety and time were the two factors mentioned by David Farrier, Coordinator of Emergency Medical Services, and Hospital Administrator Paul Pieffer when discussing the improvements resulting from the recently completed helipad at Charlton Memorial Hospital (CMH) said “With patients who had, for example, cervical spine injuries, where stability is of primary importance, transporting them across the curb and then through the grass presented a problem.” According to Pieffer when dry weather conditions existed the fire department had to be called to wet the area down to prevent dust from clogging the helicopter’s mechanism and, he said, the lack of a lighted pad reduced the aircraft’s ability to land when visibility was poor.

“The biggest factor will be safety for the helicopters,” Ferrier said. “And the new helipad will greatly enhance the ability of the helicopter to land and take off quickly.”

The staff at CMH is pleased and grateful for the new addition donated by the Colemans. Doctors and paramedics agreed that every second counts when dealing with critically injured patients.

Amber lights surrounding the pad glow from the air greatly enhancing the ability of the helicopters to see, to land and to transport patients safely and quickly to waiting treatment in Jacksonville hospitals. “Lit pads are just heaven sent for pilots. No longer will we have to deal with a call back saying “we can’t land because of poor visibility,” Pieffer said.

There is a new paved walk from the pad to the emergency room entrance and also flashing beacons atop power lights at the east side of the hospital.

The Colemans donated the helipad to CMH in memory of their son Nicki who was killed in May 1985 while on duty as a part-time deputy in Camden County.

The twenty-four year old Coleman was writing a speeding ticket when a U-Haul truck veered into the emergency lane, taking his life.

Mrs. Coleman said Nicki had always wanted to help people and had always been interested in hospitals and new equipment. Friends say that Nicki was a public spirited person involved in scouting and helping others.

In the early eighties when Nicki was working full time as a deputy sheriff he was also working on a volunteer basis as an emergency medical technician for hospitals in the area. Years of working with injured people had developed within Nicki a keen eye for the needs of others.

“Nicki said that CMH really needed a helipad.” Mrs. Coleman said.

The safety and time factor of the new helipad is certain at some point in the future to save a life. What a wonderful memorial for Nicki Coleman, a young man who had dedicated his brief life to helping others.

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