The two victims killed in a crash with a big rig on a La Mesa freeway were a mother and daughter, both of whom leave behind spouses and children.
According to Timothy Thompson, the son and brother of the victims, his mother, Nancy Bauerlein, 57, and sister, Jennifer Thompson-Campbell, 29, were killed Wednesday when a big rig plowed into their green Chevy Aveo on State Route 125 at Interstate 8.
Thompson described Bauerlein as a “loving wife and mother” of three children and two step-children. She was a grandmother of nine, with one more grandchild on the way.
Thompson told NBC 7 his sister was also wife and mother of two, an 8-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl. She was one week shy of her 30th birthday, which would’ve been on Aug. 10.
"My sister was just starting to get back into her faith, going back to church, getting her kids involved, and really trying to show them what kind of morals they should be brought up with," he said.
Thompson said both his mother and sister worked as civilian employees at the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest on Naval Air Station North Island.
The mother-daughter duo, both from Ramona, had been carpooling to and from work for years.
"My sister and her were best friends," he added. "My mom and my sister – kid of two of the same. They had so much love to give."
Thompson said both women "will be extremely missed" by their family and friends.
"They were the core of the family," he explained. "Both of them always got us together, always bringing laughter to our lives. They were amazing people."
He said his mother loved hosting get-togethers for her family at her home.
"That was her life; she loved it. She loved being around us; she loved being around her grandkids, and she loved to take care of us," he added.
Bauerlein and Thompson-Campbell were in a Chevy Aveo traveling on the northbound SR-125 transition ramp to eastbound I-8 at around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday when a big rig plowed into their car.
According to the California Highway Patrol, the driver of the big rig lost control moments before slamming into the Chevy Aveo, as she got onto the southbound SR-125 transition from westbound Interstate 8. The big rig driver smashed through the metal guardrail on the freeway, crossing lanes onto northbound SR-125 before crashing into a concrete divider wall and slamming into the women’s vehicle.
The front end of the jackknifed big rig wound up pressed up against the back end of Bauerlein's green Chevy Aveo. The car was mangled, and its rear window blown out and its front windshield shattered.
The big rig also crashed into a family inside a black Kia Sorrento: two adults and two little girls, ages 4 and 6.
The 6-year-old suffered a broken neck and was having trouble breathing. She was rushed to Rady Children’s Hospital where she continued to recover Thursday.
The 4-year-old suffered minor injuries. In the chaos of the aftermath of the crash, a firefighter with the Heartland Fire & Rescue Department comforted the little girl, carrying her away from the wreckage.
News helicopter footage captured the tender moments between the firefighter and the girl. He carried her over to a fire engine and eventually put her down to give her a drink of water. The child was soon back in his arms, resting her head on the firefighter’s shoulder.
The 33-year-old mother of the girls, of Santee, and another family member were inside the black SUV. The mother suffered minor injuries but was able to ride in the ambulance with her 6-year-old as that child was rushed to the hospital, paramedics told NBC 7.
CHP spokesman Kevin Pearlstein said the 4-year-old girl was in a car seat at the time of the collision, but the 6-year-old was not restrained in a booster seat.
The female driver of the big rig and a male passenger in the big rig suffered moderate injuries in the crash. In all, six people were hurt but survived: the two adults in the Kia, one of whom suffered a broken leg, the two girls in the Kia, and the two people in the big rig.
The big rig had the Swift Transportation logo on its side. Swift Vice President of Marketing and Communications said their safety team is investigating the crash.
"Our Safety team is investigating everything as thoroughly and as quickly as they can, and I’m told we will have someone on the scene as soon as possible," Cozette Phifer said in an email to NBC 7. "Our entire company is heartbroken whenever there is any kind of accident involving one of our Drivers."
Due to the ongoing investigation, CHP has not released the names of the woman and man in the big rig. According to an accident report filed by CHP officials, they are from Marrieta, Georgia; the driver is 34 years old, while the passenger is 41.
CHP Officer Ben Demarest said Thursday that the driver of the big rig was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the deadly accident.
There was a dashboard camera inside the big rig and authorities are hoping to be able to extract that footage to get more details on what happened in the moments leading to the collision.
Demarest said additional details are forthcoming, as investigators gather more information.
The CHP report states that the investigation "is expected to [last] several weeks to months to provide clear/thorough investigation."
The driver of the big rig told investigators that she felt the trailer wobbling right before the crash. An inspection is being performed on the big rig.
Thompson said he spoke with his mother on the day of the accident.
"I told her to be safe on the highway, and she told me she’d be fine," he said, pausing. "That’s how we ended it."
He said Thompson-Campbell’s children will be cared for by their father, along with their huge family that has a lot of love to give.
Friends have established an online fundraising page to help support the family of the victims killed in the crash.