People all across America gathered together within their communities over the past several days to celebrate the birthdate and independence of America, in what should be a time of great joy and patriotism.
One such Independence Day celebration unfortunately ended in tragedy for residents of Rock Island, IL on Tuesday, when a massive limb broke off a large oak tree on the courthouse lawn and crushed several people who were gathered underneath.
According to WLS, two people were killed and five others injured after the massive tree branch crashed down upon a group of people who were enjoying the Red, White and Boom fireworks extravaganza on the lawn of the Rock Island County Courthouse.
The branch, which reportedly measured nearly 45 feet in length, was said to have loudly snapped and dropped some 25 feet to the ground from the 100-year-old oak tree, which measured some eight feet in circumference at its base, shortly after the fireworks show began.
Daniel Mendoza, a 61-year-old from Rock Island, was pronounced dead at the scene and Lawrence Anderson, a 72-year-old from Moline, was pronounced dead after being transported to the hospital.
Five other individuals were transported to the hospital with injuries as well, including a 21-year-old pregnant woman who gave birth to a boy following the incident. Both mother and newborn child are reportedly in good condition.
“Had that limb snapped on any other day it would have fallen harmlessly and not hurt anyone,” declared an emotional Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos.
The fireworks show began around 9:30 pm and emergency crews were summoned to respond to the tragic accident between 9:40-9:45 pm, while the show was still ongoing.
“People said you could hear the cracking of the limb. People were screaming and running to get out of the way, stated Rock Island resident Torrie Minnis, who’d been watching the fireworks show from the nearby Talbot Memorial (Centennial) Bridge. “They were pulling people out of the branches. There was a guy under there and he was holding a little boy. It’s really sad.”
It has yet to be determined what caused the tree limb to break loose from the large oak tree, as there was no severe weather at the time, but Sheriff Bustos informed KWQC that an investigation into the cause of the deadly accident would be undertaken.
Independence Day celebrations are supposed to be a time of great joy and reflection upon how our relatively young nation came into existence and reached the great heights it has achieved.
Sadly, this particular celebration was marred by a horrific tragedy that will no doubt weigh heavily on the community for years to come.