“We have flashbacks.”
Coroner: More space needed for intense work.
What you see on the job stays with you. Laurens County Coroner Nick Nichols imparted that message to the county council last Tuesday, as Nichols provided an overview of the duties and needs of his office.
Nichols said the coroner’s office needs to expand beyond the four small rooms it has now in the downtown headquarters of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, and needs a refrigerated truck (for decomposed bodies). He expressed appreciation to the council for authorizing an extra 15 hours a week in his office so deputies and staff can handle paperwork.
Nichols praised Assistant Coroner Vickie Cheek. “She has not only pulled the wagon, but she has carried it in every way,” he said.
With 38 years experience, Nichols said he dates to a time when the coroner’s office was the back of a veterinary office and a service station. By contrast, in 2020, all coroner’s officers throughout the state will have to be certified.
In his time, Nichols has dealt with hundreds of healthcare professionals. “Greenville Hospital has worked great with us,” Nichols said.
The coroner said anniversaries of deaths are especially difficult. He said he talked with someone for an hour the other day on the first anniversary of a loved one’s death. Nichols said he is going to have to rule soon on a husband-wife death that has been a difficult case, and some of the worst cases are the homicides of children. People sometimes don’t want to accept death by overdose.
“It is very stressful,” he said. “We have flashbacks.”
So far this year, the Laurens County Coroner’s Office has investigated 447 deaths. Nichols said he expects the number to exceed 600 by the end of the year. The office just recently in a short time period investigated eight deaths, including two traffic fatalities in the last Friday to Monday time frame.
He said Cheek spent from the afternoon to 9 p.m. working on a death notification, reports and sending fluids to SLED (to comply with state law) on a traffic death involving a vehicle colliding with a District 55 school bus. That fatality occurred on Hwy 101 in the northern area of Laurens County, toward Greenville; the other recent fatality occurred on I-26 near Joanna, in the eastern area of Laurens County, toward Newberry.
Council Chairman Dr. David Pitts commended Nichols for the office’s operations and thanked the deputy coroners. He called for, and received, a standing ovation for Nichols as a long-standing Laurens County official. Noting in the last election Nichols garnered 14,000 votes, Pitts said, “I want to say ‘Thank You,’ everyone - black-white, male-female, rich-poor - Nick Nichols works with all people.”