People pay respects to victims of fallen tree branch accident

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ROCK ISLAND, Illinois-- Dozens of flowers, flags and balloons have been laid at the base of the oak tree on the Rock Island County Courthouse lawn where a tree branch fell Tuesday night a killed two people.

Dozens of people were watching the Red, White and Boom fireworks show under the tree when a branch came crashing down.

Michael Gipson was filming fireworks when it all happened.

"It breaks my heart because I sat there and watched it (the video), and I said, 'That could've been me or my wife or anybody else or a little boy,'" Gipson said.

Gipson said he tried to help after he realized what had happened.

"I'm really impressed to have seen as much people as I did try to come over and help," he said, "cause you don't ever find that anywhere. That's hard to find."

Gipson said people tried to move the tree branch to free those stuck underneath. However, 61-year-old Daniel Mendoza Sr. died at the scene.

"People thought he was still alive. He wasn't. If that big old part of that tree hit him, there's no way you're going to get him out," Gipson said.

72-year-old Lawrence Anderson was injured by the branch and later died at the hospital.

Sondra Boyle said her family usually sits near the oak tree to watch the fireworks.

"My heart goes out to them (the families of the victims)," she said. I didn't know none of them. But my prayers to the families. This is a sad thing to come out and celebrate and it ends in tragic like this."

Boyle stopped by the courthouse Wednesday to lay flowers for the victims.

"I don't know the families to give them condolences," she said. "So my flowers are there, and I just want to say that I'm so sorry that this happened."

The Rock Island County Sheriff said this remains an ongoing investigation.

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