The news of his death stunned the law enforcement community
throughout the region. After all, Patrick Steven Coyle was one of
those larger than life individuals. His enthusiastic love of life
and outgoing, casual demeanor made folks instantly at ease in his
presence. In his life, Coyle exemplified love for his family,
friends, and career with
the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.
Coyle's last assignment was with the Aerial Support Detail/ASTREA,
where he worked as a Tactical Flight Officer aboard the department’s
helicopters. He lost his life on the evening of February 16, 1997,
when the helicopter he was flying in crashed during a patrol
mission. This was the first fatal accident in ASTREA’s 25-year history.
He was just 42-years-old.
Oceanside Police Chief Mike Poehlman was a long time personal friend. They started their careers together in law enforcement
25 years ago as Police Explorer Cadets.
"All he wanted to be was a
street cop," Poehlman said. "He wanted to be where the action was."
Coyle's personal life, however, was far less intense.
"Pat was a generous, big-hearted man who was able to touch many
people in his short but full life...a real family person, very devoted
to his children and helping young people in the community," Poehlman
Coyle's family was the cornerstone of his life. His wife
Jackie, daughter Chelsea and son Cory were his biggest admirers, and he
never hid his unconditional love and commitment to each of them.
Many who knew
Coyle remember him flying around the county in his small airplane,
delivering copies of the Pacific Flyer newspaper; a chore he gladly
undertook because it gave him an opportunity to spend time with his son.
Beyond his family, aviation was Coyle's greatest passion. He
was an accomplished private airplane pilot who attained his instrument
rating. He even owned an airplane for a period of time.
assignment at ASTREA fulfilled a long time dream. It allowed him to combine
his passions of flying and being a cop.
In his role as a Tactical
Officer, he approached his job with a dedicated and proactive approach,
earning him a great deal of respect from his peers. His other family, the flight crews at ASTREA, will always hold
him in high regard.
Coyle's many genuine qualities, sense of humor and
infectious laugh are more than fond memories. Stories about him are
still shared today by those who knew him best.
One of the all time
favorites is the tale of how Coyle earned his nickname, "The Mastadon".
On one of his very first days assigned to ASTREA, he
attended a unit rescue training exercise in rural east county.
Since he was the “new guy”, he was given the task of monitoring the
radio for calls.
While everyone was gathered around in a tight group
watching an instructional demonstration, the radio crackled to life.
"ASTREA One.” Everyone immediately tuned in. The
communications center was looking for a helicopter.
But curiously, Coyle
didn’t acknowledge the call in any way. Surely, he heard it.
One….. ASTREA One…… ASTREA One…”, the
The lack of response from Coyle drew the
attention of the entire group. Someone finally spoke up and asked
he heard them calling.
With a straight face and absolute sincerity, Coyle said, “Oh, they weren’t calling us, they were calling
Apparently, Coyle must have believed the communications center occasionally
broadcasts random extinct mammal names just to see if anyone is paying
The name stuck, and from that minute forward, Coyle was forever "The Mastadon". What made it so fitting was
his large physical frame.
In reality, Coyle was a big teddy bear. He was a generous friend, a respected aviator,
cop, and wonderful, loving family man. He was a truly unique individual
who is greatly missed by all who knew him.