Family members just can't believe this accident happened. One minute they were cooking out in the backyard and the next minute their mother was trapped under a large tree. It's a reminder of the consequences of last summer's extreme drought in the Houston area.
"I seen what had happened. The tree had hit my mom and little sister," recalled Jose Mata.
Mata was hosting a family gathering, hosting his uncle, brother-in-law, nieces, nephews and his siblings and parents. The cookout came to a chaotic end though, when a dead pine tree snapped from the other side of the fence. Mata was inside serving food as his mother, Elena Mata, 54, was eating at a table. His brother-in-law was just feet from her.
"He heard the tree cracking and he told everybody watch out and everybody scrambled but, unfortunately my mom wasn't able to get up fast enough," Mata said.
Neighbor Melvin Barnes said, "I mean, I feel like crying now. Sad for him. "
When he heard the crash, Barnes rushed over and also called 911. The brittle pine tree was on his side of the fence.
He said, "I'm so sorry and it's a hurt that you can't ease, because it's a question mark. You just don't know. You just don't know. I've looked back there and never thought that would have happened."
As a candle marks the spot where Mata's mother was crushed, he hopes her untimely death prompts homeowners to take a look at their own property.
"A lot of people think they are not going to come down, but they will," Mata said. "Just try to take them down before something like this happens to anybody. I don't want it happening to any other family."
Mata's 12-year-old sister was also hit and suffered a concussion. Though she is hospitalized, she's expected to be OK. They are now planning funeral arrangements in Liberty, where Mata's mother lived.