Two people, including a 12-year-old boy, died when a six-storey cherry picker toppled over in Albuquerque, New Mexico as children were being given a fun ride by its owner.
Three children in the basket survived and were taken to hospital. Two, aged 10 and seven, are in a critical condition. A third child, also 10, is believed stable.
The tragedy is thought to have happened when a local man identified by neighbours as Ken Raschick treated the four children, one of them his own son, to the spectacular view from the 50-foot crane. A picture apparently taken moments before the accident shows how high the crane was at the time.
As the children enjoyed the ride it is thought a gust of wind blew the crane over, sending all five flying from the box. It is thought the crane was not secured to the flatbed truck it was sat on.
Eye-witnesses said that as the crane toppled, the man and oldest child attempted to save the younger children by pushing them down to the bottom of the box. The full relationship of the man to the children is not yet clear.
Raschick owned the cherry picker as part of his tree-trimming business, Ken's Tree Company, and was said by neighbours to be a stickler for safety who had treated neighbourhood kids to hundreds of rides without incident.
One neighbour, Edward Trujillo told local channel KOB-TV: "I hollered up to him, 'Ken, great view from there!' And he said, 'Yes, it is.' Ten seconds later, a gust of wind came and just toppled ... It just went with so much force, it was ridiculous."
Photographs taken shortly after the accident showed the man's body still on the concrete covered by a sheet.
"He was one of the nicest guys in this whole neighborhood," Larry Long told local paper the Albuquerque Journal. "He was also so safety-conscious. Those kids convinced him to do it. I guarantee it ... The crane was unstable. It should never have happened."
"I received an update from the hospital and they advised the children in critical condition are not out of the woods yet," said Albuquerque police spokesman Simon Drobik.
"We would ask the community to keep these children in your thoughts and prayers as expressed by many officers and responding first responders from AFD who were first on scene."