A 12-year-old girl died on Sunday after the snow fort she was playing in collapsed on her and a 9-year-old friend, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The two girls were playing near Rothem Church in Arlington Heights, Ill., while their parents were inside at church services. They dug the fort together in a snowbank, ABC6 reports.
When the girls hadn’t returned about an hour later, the parents went outside and found the collapsed fort, and immediately called for help. The 12-year-old suffered cardiac arrest, and was later pronounced dead. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office identified her as Esther Jung, a resident of Elk Grove Village.
The 9-year-old girl was treated for hypothermia, and remains in an area hospital. According to Sgt. Charles Buczynski, she is expected to survive.
“It’s just a tragic accident,” Buczynski said. The Tribune reported it was about 14 degrees in Arlington Heights while the girls were outside. Last year, a 12-year-old Canadian girl died when a snow fort collapsed on her.
The American Academy of Pediatrics warns about hypothermia, frostbite, and injuries commonly incurred while sledding, skating, skiing, snowboarding, or snowmobiling. However, they don’t provide any information on snow fort collapses.
“It is totally understandable that kids would want to play and make forts and tunnels in the biggest pile of snow they can find, and the biggest pile of snow is probably where the trucks are dumping it,” Kyran Quinlan, M.D., MPH, associate professor and section director of General Pediatrics at Rush University Children’s Hospital in Chicago, told Parents.com. “To reduce the risk, municipalities could do what they can to make sure that no children are playing in the places where trucks are dumping snow that is removed. And families can try to guide children to avoid playing anywhere near where the trucks are dumping the snow.”
Despite the tragic circumstances, experts say it’s no reason to discourage children from playing outside and enjoying the winter season. “The vast majority of kids who build snow forts and tunnels will be safe,” he added. “I hope this event is not seen as a reason to stay inside in the winter, or not dig and play in the snow.”