Girl Dies While Playing Outside of Church After Her Snow Fort Collapses

Esther Jung

A 12-year-old girl has died after a day playing outside in the snow turned into a heartbreaking tragedy. Esther Jung from Elk Grove Village, Illinois, was outside of her church with a friend when the snow fort that they had been building collapsed and trapped the two girls inside. 

  • The accident happened while the girls' families were inside Rothem Church after attending Sunday services.

    Esther was playing with a 9-year-old friend when a snowbank fell and buried them, The Chicago Tribune reports. According to police, the girls weren't discovered until at least an hour later once adults realized they were missing and went outside to look for them. But it's unknown how long they were trapped. 

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  • Arlington Heights police and fire departments were called around 2:40 p.m. and the girls were rushed to Northwest Community Hospital for treatment. 

    The 9-year-old girl who was playing with Esther was treated for hypothermia and held overnight for observation. But sadly, Esther was reportedly found in cardiac arrest and authorities pronounced her dead about 4:30 p.m., just hours after they started playing.

    The 9-year-old girl's great uncle, Jae Kim, told ABC 7 that his grand-niece was not completely buried in the snow before her rescue and had tried to call for help while the adults were inside. 

    "She cried out, 'Help me. Help me,' but nobody heard it," Kim said.

    An autopsy report on Monday revealed that the official cause of death was asphyxia and hypothermia, according to the Chicago-Sun Times. Her death was ruled an accident.

  • Esther's father is the pastor of the church where his daughter died and shared a little of who his daughter was with reporters.

    Her family described Esther, who was the youngest of three, as a smart, strong, and beautiful girl who wanted to grow up to be a veterinarian. 

    Neighbor Peg Gradl explained to ABC 7 that she would often see the young girl building snow forts in her front yard and spoke of just how shocking her death has been for the community.

    "It's just so sad. It's something she loved to do, and she did regularly, so she was probably confident in her skills," Gradl explained. "Two little girls just having fun in the snow. It's so normal, but it's a danger we don't often think of."

    A fellow member of Esther's church has started a GoFundMe account to help raise funds for her funeral and her family.