With tears in their eyes, friends, family and musicians held a memorial service Saturday for a San Diego artist killed by a falling tree in Pacific Beach during a strong El Niño storm.
“She was beautiful. She was fun; amazing. She was very, very talented – at everything she did," said Deborah Deroscher-Gil, referring to her beloved friend, Nicki Carano. "She was always fun to be with. She was always laughing. I will miss her laugh. I will hear it for a long time.”
On Jan. 31, at around 3 p.m., as heavy rain and strong winds plowed San Diego County, Carano -- a professional drummer, vocalist and dance -- was on her way to a live music gig, set to perform with her bands.
As Carano drove on Ingraham Street near Crown Point, a huge tree at least eight feet in diameter came crashing down on the street, falling across the entire roadway. The tree toppled on Carano’s car, crushing the vehicle and killing her.
Emergency responders said there was likely not much Carano could’ve done as the massive tree came barreling down.
Her death – and life – left an indelible mark on her loved ones, who are struggling with the sudden and painful loss.
NBC 7 spoke to fellow musician and friend, Stellita Porter, who said she was always taken aback by Carano’s determination and talent.
“It’s been a while since Nicki and I worked together but when we did, it was just amazing,” Porter said. “There was nothing she couldn’t do. She was always, ‘I can do it. I can do it.’ And she just had so many talents. She could sing, she could dance, she could just do it all.”
On Saturday, between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., loved ones gathered at Kate Sessions Park in Pacific Beach to share stories and memories of Carano.
Veronica Guzman, a friend of Carano's brother, said she'll never forget Carano's "mesmerizing" eyes and demeanor and memorable musical abilities.
"She will be surely missed by everybody," said Guzman.
Some of Carano's young drumming students also attended the memorial. They were saddened by their instructor's untimely passing and said they would always remember her as a nice, fun, caring person. Carano had been their instructor for the past four years.
"Nicki Carano wasn't only a drum teacher, she was also a friend," one boy said. "She taught me everything I needed to know to be a good drummer."
"Nicki was the best drummer I've ever met," another boy added.
All of Carano's students promised they would continue to pursue drumming with the skills she had taught them.
Earlier this week, Carano’s brother, David, told NBC 7 his older sister as the glue that held their family together. He described her as a compassionate, funny “firecracker.”
Her bandmate, Matt Silvia, of the Christopher Dale Trio said Carano was one of the best musicians he had ever seen and a very sweet, kind person. Silvia said he didn’t know how he and his bandmate, Christopher Dale, would move on without her.
On Thursday, Dale posted information about Carano’s memorial service on his Facebook page, along with a video clip showing the band – including Carano rocking the drums – during a performance last December.
“Thank you all for your love and support during this very difficult time,” Dale wrote. See the clip below: