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 said.


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. 

 

Thus, Coyle's 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 Flight 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. 

 

 

"THE MASTADON"

 

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.

 

“ASTREA One….. ASTREA One…… ASTREA One…”, the dispatcher continued.

 

The lack of response from Coyle drew the attention of the entire group.  Someone finally spoke up and asked him if he heard them calling. 

 

With a straight face and absolute sincerity, Coyle said, “Oh, they weren’t calling us, they were calling "Mastadon".

 

Apparently, Coyle must have believed the communications center occasionally broadcasts random extinct mammal names just to see if anyone is paying attention.


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.