12-year-old girl dies in snow fort collapse

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.

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Winter storms and weather across the United States -- January 2019
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Winter storms and weather across the United States -- January 2019
James Spanos pushes a cart of his belongings on a snow-covered street during a winter storm, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Portland, Maine. Scarves, hoods and gloves were necessary for New England residents venturing outdoors as the region endures a storm that can dump up to 18 inches of snow. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Horses stand over a major winter storm which dropped around 8 inches of snow in Taos, New Mexico, U.S., January 11, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
Caleb Seely rides a unicycle on a snow covered sidewalk as he heads home after helping shovel out his brother's driveway during a winter storm, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Portland, Maine. The extra knobby tire on Seely's ride provided traction on a day when snow, sleet and freezing rain kept most motorists indoors. Parts of New England residents are bracing for up to 18 inches of snow. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Traffic moved through the town center after a major winter storm dropped around 8 inches of snow in Taos, New Mexico, U.S., January 11, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
Don Locke, of Pottsville, Pa., clears snow and ice from his car along 12th Street in Pottsville, Pa., on Sunday, January 20, 2019. (Andy Matsko/The Republican-Herald via AP)
A couple takes photos at the frozen fountain in Bryant Park January 11, 2019 in New York. New York City was hit with bitter temperatures and high winds. - The low for Friday was 22 Farenheit (-5.5 Celsius) (Photo by Don EMMERT / AFP) (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Motorists try to fix their windshield wipers during a winter storm, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Portland, Maine. Snow, sleet and freezing rain is making travel hazardous throughout much of New England. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
People take photos of the frozen fountain in Bryant Park on January 11, 2019 in New York. New York City was hit with bitter temperatures and high winds. - The low for Friday was 22 Farenheit (-5.5 Celsius) (Photo by Don EMMERT / AFP) (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Crews clear snow at the Albany International Airport in Colonie, N.Y., Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019. A major winter storm that blanketed much of the Midwest with snow earlier in the weekend is barreling toward New England, where it is expected to wreak transportation havoc from slick and clogged roads to hundreds of canceled airline flights. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)
Birds play in the frozen fountain in Bryant Park January 11, 2019 in New York. New York City was hit with bitter temperatures and high winds. The low for Friday was 22 Farenheit (-5.5 Celsius) (Photo by Don EMMERT / AFP) (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Lakewood CO - JANUARY 11: Meredith Mills pushes shopping carts back into King Soppers on January 11, 2019 in Lakewood, Colorado. Snow continues to fall in the metro area. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
SILVER SPRING, MD - JAN 9: Emmi Horne, 8, tries to catch snowflakes on her toungue as she walks through downtown Silver Spring, Maryland during a brief snow squall with her mom, Terry Horne, right. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 8: A pedestrian passes through a light dusting of snow on a Columbia Road sidewalk in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston on Jan. 8, 2019. (Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Waves from the East River are seen in front of the Brooklyn Bridge and the skyline of Manhattan in New York on January 7, 2019. (Photo by Johannes EISELE / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
Keith Morris, of the City of Owensboro's Street Department, takes off a hose after loading 1,000 gallons of salt brine into a tank on a truck, Friday afternoon, Jan. 11, 2019, so it can be spread on city roads in Owensboro, Ky. The National Weather Service had issued a winter weather advisory on Friday of accumulating snow moving into the area Friday evening into early Saturday. (Alan Warren/The Messenger-Inquirer via AP)
Traffic moves along I-70 near Lawrence, Kan., Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 ahead of an expected snow storm. The area is under a Winter Weather Advisory. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
A plow treats Douglas County Road 438 near Lawrence, Kan., Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 ahead of an expected snow storm. The area is under a Winter Weather Advisory. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
A pedestrian walks across the street in downtown Scranton, Pa., on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019. A major winter storm brought some of the coldest temperatures of the season and covered a large swath of the country in snow as it wreaked havoc on air travel and caused slick road conditions throughout New England Sunday. (Butch Comegys/The Times-Tribune via AP)
Marvin Hooks wears a face mask to protect him from the cold as he walks on North Street in Pittsfield, Mass., Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. Bitter cold and gusty winds swept across the eastern U.S. Monday with falling temperatures replacing the weekend's falling snow. (Ben Garver/The Berkshire Eagle via AP)
A runner moves through West Park on the Northside of Pittsburgh on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019. A major winter storm brought some of the coldest temperatures of the season and covered a large swath of the country in snow as it wreaked havoc on air travel and caused slick road conditions throughout New England Sunday. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Dan Cappella, of Pottsville, Pa., clears snow away on Howard Avenue in Pottsville, Pa., on Sunday, January 20, 2019. (Andy Matsko/The Republican-Herald via AP)
Ben Jennings snowblows his driveway on Sunday, Jan. 20, in Glenville, N.Y., where 16 inches of snow fell from Saturday evening through noon Sunday. (AP Photo/Mary Esch)
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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.”

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