When his father was killed two years ago by a hit-and-run driver, Jeramie Coleman “stepped up.”
He cooked. He comforted. He helped his mother, Monica Eagle, care for his eight other siblings.
He became more “mature” than the rest of the Great Falls teenagers Jasmine Cohen, Coleman’s 18-year-old sister, said she’s met.
“He was a daddy figure,” she said on Saturday, a day after her brother drowned at Lake Wateree State Park in Fairfield County while swimming with his family. “He was a devoted Christian...he was always there for me.”
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While at the Winnsboro park, Coleman, who just turned 14 on July 20, swam too far into the lake and began struggling against the water, said Fairfield County Coroner Barkley Ramsey.
Bystanders tried rescuing Coleman, but they were unsuccessful, Ramsey said.
The teen went under the water, he said, and was not recovered by a dive team until about an hour after he was last seen. A preliminary cause of death, Ramsey said, was determined to be asphyxia due to drowning.
Coleman is the second Great Falls resident to drown in Fairfield County this week.
Last Wednesday, mother-of-two Brooke Huffstetler, 26, died after officials say she jumped off the cliff of a rock quarry, hit a tree on her way down and never resurfaced from beneath the waters.
A dive team found Huffstetler, 26, nearly two hours after she was reported missing in the quarry, off S.C. 901 in Fairfield County. Ramsey said she died of asphyxiation due to drowning. The quarry is on private property, officials reported, and the owner did not know Huffstetler and her friends would be diving there.
Coleman and his family had just been at Lake Wateree last Sunday to celebrate his 14th birthday. They were happy then, Cohen said.
On Friday, “they went back, and something bad happened,,” she said.
Coleman was exercising elsewhere when she got the call her brother was dead. She was in denial then, she said, and admits that she still has a hard time believing Coleman is gone.
“I don’t want to believe it,” she said.
Coleman was to start his freshman year at Great Falls High School this fall.
“He was one of those students you are grateful to have in your school,” said Brenda Fort, principal for Great Falls Middle/High Schools. “He was really sweet, was bright and was self-motivated. He will be greatly missed by his teachers and friends.”
“Friends” were things Coleman had in abundance, his siblings said.
“He was funny, outgoing,” Cohen said. “He didn’t care what he said to people. He prayed with them.”
He was an avid sportsman, proficient in basketball, baseball and football.
“He was good in everything,” she said.
But, family was most important to the young man who became like a second father to his brothers and sisters after his own was killed.
In June 2012, London Coleman, 43, died after a driver hit him as he walked along S.C. 99 in Great Falls, just a few hundred feet away from his home. The crash remains unsolved.
Coleman, whose family say he looks just like their father, “took it hard,” Cohen said.
Now, his family is struggling after another difficult loss.
“I just wish there was something I could’ve done to prevent it,” said 17-year-old Kendrick Cohen, Coleman’s brother. “He was always in church. That’s like my sidekick.”
Ten-year-old Destiny Coleman described her brother as selfless. After he got his “birthday money,” he distributed it among his siblings.
Friday night, she walked into his room and said, “Hey, Jeramie.”
She quickly realized “he wasn’t there.”