2 dead after tree branch falls on crowd at fireworks show

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (AP) — Two people died and several others were injured after a branch measuring in parts more than 8-feet around fell on spectators during a fireworks display in western Illinois, authorities said.

Rock Island County Sheriff Gerald Bustos said Wednesday that the branch fell from an oak tree that’s believed to be about 100 years old. It fell about 25 feet during Tuesday night’s “Red, White and Boom” event outside the courthouse in Rock Island.

Dozens were sitting near the tree watching the fireworks when the branch fell, crushing some of the spectators. Some of those who weren’t hurt tried to lift the branch to free the people trapped beneath.

Bustos said Daniel Mendoza Sr., 61, of Rock Island was pronounced dead at the scene. Lawrence R. Anderson, 72, of Moline died at a hospital. Authorities have not provided the causes of death, but Bustos said autopsies were planned for later Wednesday.

Six other people were taken to a local hospital, including a 21-year-old pregnant woman from East Moline who was near term. Bustos said the woman gave birth, and she and her baby are reported to be in good health.

The others were treated Tuesday night and released from the hospital. Two people from Maysville, Iowa, and their 2-year-old son suffered minor injuries, including scratches to the face. A 3-year-old boy from Bettendorf, Iowa was treated for a suspected concussion, while a Moline woman also had a suspected concussion and scratches.

Melanie Brown Ledbetter told KWQC-TV she was with sitting about 50-feet (15 meters) from the tree with family and friends, watching the fireworks.

“I was turned talking to my friend and heard the loud crackle of the tree breaking and saw it fall,” she said.

She said her husband was among those who tried to help people who were hurt or trapped.

“People were screaming and crying,” Ledbetter said. “A lot of people rushed over to help and a lot of people immediately packed up and fled the scene.”

Bustos said his office is investigating, and he will provide an update Thursday afternoon.

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