It wasn’t until the two girls had been gone an hour that their families began to worry.
As NBC Chicago reports, 12-year-old Esther Jung and her friend, 9-year-old Sophia Shin had gone out to play in the snow. It was Sunday afternoon, and their families were attending the Rothem Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois — where Jung’s father is the pastor.
The girls built a snow fort by tunneling into a snowbank outside the church. When the fort collapsed, Jung was trapped under the snow. Shim was buried up to the chest and called for help but to no avail. Shin’s great-uncle told the Daily Herald:
“She cried out, ‘Help me. Help me,’ but nobody heard it.”
When the two young girls hadn’t come back in an hour later, their families went to look for them. Emergency services rushed both girls to the hospital, but Jung was pronounced dead soon after. She had died from hypothermia and asphyxia. Shin was treated for hypothermia and held for observation.
One classmate described Jung as “smart” and “kind.” He told NBC Chigaco:
“She always helps classmates when they’re sad. She always lifts their spirits up.”
Playing in snowbanks was something that Jung enjoyed doing every winter. Peg Gradl, a neighbor, told NBC Chicago:
“How sad is that? Two little girls just having fun in snow. It’s so normal, but it’s a danger we don’t often think of. The snow comes and goes, so we don’t think of it being dangerous.”
Though snow forts may not be at the top of most parents’ list of winter weather dangers, they can be hazardous.
The Canadian Pediatric Society warns that building forts and tunnels should only be done with adult supervision because of the danger that they can collapse and suffocate the person inside. In addition, playing in roadside snowbanks is a bad idea as they can hide children from snowplows and drivers.