Last Friday around 2 p.m., traffic on state Route 76 in Oceanside was unusually light. Light enough, in fact, for Crystal Patterson, a former nurse with EMT training to avert her eyes for a moment.
"I was watching the skydiver,” Crystal told NBC 7 this week.
Crystal's 19-year-old daughter, Shayla, saw a plane at about that time.
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"I remember looking over and saying, 'Oh, my, Mom: Look at that plane,' " Shayla said.
In a moment the two would be thrust into the center of a terrible tragedy, the first to get to a plane crash killed one pilot and severely injured another.
"The second it broke the treeline, it was just taking that nose-dive down," Shayla rememberer.
“Oh, my goodness I hope he doesn’t hit the skydiver,” Crystal recalled thinking.
“I called 911 and said, 'I just saw a plane crash. We need someone out here right away," Shayla told NBC 7. "And, sure enough, I see Oceanside PD."
Tanner Epp, an Oceanside police officer who just happened to be across the street from the crash at Fire Station 7 who was doing paperwork, was the first officer to respond to the crash.
“I saw the impact," Epp said. "I heard it, and I saw a big cloud of dust come up."
Despite being on the job less than two years, it was Epp’s second plane crash at the same spot.
“It was kind of like that deja vu moment, where this can’t be happening twice," Epp said.
“I remember thinking to myself, 'Please don’t be anybody in there, please don’t be anybody in there," Shayla remembered.
God must have opened up a hole, because there was no traffic whatsoever, and we just ran across the road," Crystal said.
A six-foot chain-link fence separates SR-76 from the old movie theater where the plane went down. Crystal and her daughter found a hole in it, and from there, it was just a 50-foot sprint to the plane, which hit the berm of the road with such force that engine was crushed and the right wing broke off.
Inside, there were two pilots, a woman unconscious and on her side in the seat, and a man who was also not immediately responding. Crystal told NBC 7 that she focused on the woman.
“Prayed with her to give us peace and calm," Crystal said. "I calmed down and my training kicked in from there."
Crystal was an EMT when she was her daughter's age. Up until three years ago, she she was a certified medical assistant.
“I could see she was stabilizing her head, and I knew she seemed like she was in good hands," Epps said.
(SOT) Crystal Patterson/ Rescuer
“I wasn’t thinking emotionally about anything," Crystal said. "I just knew what I needed to do, and that is what I focused on."
Epp had his hands full with the other victim.
“As soon as he got out, he just kind of collapsed on the ground in pain," Epp said. "I could tell he had major leg and face injuries."
Neither of the two pilots involved have been identified. The man survived but the woman did not.
“I just think about it every day, you know?" Shayla said. "She is on my mind.”
“It took quite a few days to actually close my eyes and go to sleep at night and not see her and relive that situation,” Crystal said.
Still, the two were compelled to act.
“I don’t want to have to ever, if a situation arises again, think, 'Oh, I don’t want to have that feeling again,' because it doesn’t matter," Crystal said. "For me, I am a strong person. I know I can get through it."
Oceanside police said federal investigators have contacted the Pattersons. Their information could provide assistance in understanding what happened.