Bernard Collins lived an amazing life. He was a member of the Karate Hall of Fame and was hailed an American hero by NASA for saving dozens...

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Bernard Collins lived an amazing life. He was a member of the Karate Hall of Fame and was hailed an American hero by NASA for saving dozens of lives after an accident during a preflight shuttle launch.

Mr. Collins died Thursday at his home in Atlanta. A longtime resident of Issaquah, he was 60.

Mr. Collins worked for NASA for two decades as manager of launch-pad security at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Affectionately known as “Pad Daddy,” his heroism began at 6 a.m. March 19, 1981, as the space center prepared for the launch of space shuttle Columbia.

Columbia had just completed a preflight test at Cape Canaveral. As part of the procedure, oxygen was flushed from the rear of the shuttle and replaced with pure nitrogen. NASA staff members announced the test was complete and the area clear for workers to return.

But that wasn’t the case.

Three workers were killed and five others injured when they were trapped in an area without air. Mr. Collins took over, ordering the evacuation of 100 workers and preventing anyone else from coming up to the launch pad unless they had the proper breathing gear.

NASA later commended Mr. Collins for saving the lives of 15 people.

Born Dec. 7, 1944, in Jacksonville, Fla., Mr. Collins was the third of six children. He served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. After his career at NASA, Mr. Collins and his wife moved to Issaquah and he began working for Boeing.

Mr. Collins was an avid enthusiast of martial arts. He opened three karate schools — two in Cocoa, Fla., and one in Titusville, Fla., and received special recognition from former President Clinton for his contribution to the sport of karate.

In 2000, Mr. Collins was inducted into the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

Mr. Collins is survived by his wife, Janice, of Atlanta; three daughters, Bernadette Tolen, Candice Smith and Jené Gipson; and one son, Damone Gipson.

Services in Atlanta are pending.

Lynne Varner: 206-464-3217 or lvarner@seattletimes.com