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Falling Tree Branch In Central Park Kills Baby

June 26, 2010

Central Park was the scene of a tragedy on Saturday after a branch fell on a mother and daughter right outside the zoo, killing the baby girl.

The family is from Union City, New Jersey. Police say the mother was holding her six-month-old daughter in her arms for a family picture when the branch high above them snapped off and came crashing down.

The branch fell right outside the Central Park Zoo, near the seal tank. Trung Tran and his family heard the branch crack.

"When I turned around, I saw the branch fall down. The mother was trying to get away from the branch," Tran said. "I don't know if she tripped or fell, or a piece of the actual branch hit her, and when she fell, the baby came out from her arm and hit the ground as well."

Tran says that having a young child of his own made it even tougher to see.

"It's hard enough seeing your son fall and scratch his knee, but to see a baby fall and hit the ground and not hear any crying, it's tough, it's very hard," he said.

Philip Rams, an ICU nurse from Germany, performed CPR on the baby after the accident.

"I just turned around and heard the noise, and asked the father what was going on with the baby, and then did CPR," Rams said.

When the branch fell, the zoo shut down briefly for the investigation..

"It's horrible to hear something like that, especially [since] the weather's beautiful, it's not windy or anything," Central Park visitor Shirley Smith said. "It's just sad."

"It's one of those things – you can't predict those things – but my prayers go out to the mother," Anick Talbot said.

This is the third time this year that a falling branch has injured people in Central Park. In February, a man was killed by a branch near the "literary walk," and just last month three people were hurt by falling branches near the boathouse.

In this latest tragedy, what started as a day in the park for a family will now end with the planning of a funeral.

Police have just identified the baby as Gianna Riccutti. Police say her mother is expected to recover from her injuries.

The Parks Department says it can't comment on the investigation, but a spokesperson says their hearts go out to the family.

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