"My first reaction: Oh my God," said Catala, an off-duty emergency medical technician.
The collision at Davie Boulevard and Southwest Fifteenth Avenue knocked the Rescue 47 over on its left side and sent it skidding 40 yards north in the westbound lane.
The spectacular crash left two firefighters, their patient and two women in a Volkswagen Jetta injured, according to fire-rescue spokesman Matt Little. All were taken to the hospital for treatment.
Catala, 41, said she jumped from her car and ran to the overturned ambulance, where one of the firefighters tossed her a pair of rubber gloves and told her to check on the car's occupants.
Both women had gotten out of the car by the time she got there, said Catala.
One of the women was bleeding profusely from the nose, said Catala, who works for a private ambulance firm.
"There was a lot of blood," Catala said. "She was saying she couldn't breath, and I was just telling her to stay calm."
Catala said several other motorists and nearby residents also ran to the intersection and offered to help. "It was good to see that," she said.
Ashley Better, 17, was walking east on Davie Boulevard and about to cross Southwest Fifteenth Avenue when the 11:50 a.m. collision occurred. She said the ambulance driver may have tried to avoid the crash by swerving just before impact.
"I was scared, shocked," said Better, a student at Stranahan High School who was headed for a corner bus stop. "If I had been walking a little faster I might have been right in the street when this happened."
The crash, west of the Davie Boulevard Bridge and east of Interstate 95, shut down traffic over the bridge and through the intersection for more than an hour.
"The impact was pretty severe," Catala said. "Lights and sirens were on, and everyone could hear them coming."
Little said no one's injuries were considered critical.
The crash is under investigation by Fort Lauderdale police.
Written by South Florida Sun-Sentinel