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Lake Forest Girl Struck, Killed By Tree In Wyoming

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Elizabeth "Ellie" Burns, 16, of Lake Forest, was killed by a falling tree while on a camping trip in the Teton Wilderness in Wyoming on July 18, 2011. (Lake Forest High Shool Yearbook Photo - Facebook Photo inset)

Elizabeth “Ellie” Burns, 16, of Lake Forest, was killed by a falling tree while on a camping trip in the Teton Wilderness in Wyoming on July 18, 2011. (Lake Forest High Shool Yearbook Photo – Facebook Photo inset)

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Updated 07/19/11 – 10:16 p.m.

JACKSON, Wyo. (CBS) — A 16-year-old girl from Lake Forest is dead after being struck by a large falling tree in the Teton Wilderness in Wyoming.

Elizabeth “Ellie” Burns, who would have been a junior at Lake Forest High School this fall, was on a backpacking trip with a group of teens in Wyoming’s Teton Wilderness, when she was struck by a falling tree at about 2:45 p.m. Monday, according to the Teton County Sheriff’s office.

As CBS 2′s Kristyn Hartman reports, Ellie was helping set up a campsite when the tree fell over. Emergency crews tried to save her, but couldn’t.

On Tuesday, her friends in Lake Forest got together to remember the popular student.

“It was just really a shock and it all happened so fast,” her friend Kate Whalley said.

When you’re sixteen, the death of someone your age – especially someone you were close to — is hard to understand.

“It’s as tough as it gets,” said Christine Chakoian, pastor of Ellie’s church, First Presbyterian Church in Lake Forest.

“I’m just really gonna miss her and … she was so nice,” Whalley said.

“She would just light up a room when she walked in,” her friend Ally Glennon said.

As WBBM Newsradio 780′s Mike Krauser reports, Ellie was on the Jackson Hole Leadership Adventure trip, organized by Wilderness Ventures.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Mike Krauser reports


The company takes teenagers from across the country on adventure trips.

The website for the company says the trips allow today’s “wired generation” to reconnect with the out-of-doors in ways that help them become responsible, self-confident and self-reliant.

Ellie’s friends met with their pastor on Tuesday to remember the 16-year-old. The church parking lot was full of the cars of her friends and loved ones.

“It is all for Ellie,” Chakoian said.

They were there to celebrate a life well-lived.

“She had a heart the size of Texas and she was never mean to anybody,” Chakoian said.

Most recently, she talked about the trip she was going on.

As WBBM Newsradio 780′s Mike Krauser reports, Ellie was on the Jackson Hole Leadership Adventure trip, organized by Wilderness Ventures.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Mike Krauser reports


The company takes teenagers from across the country on adventure trips.

The website for the company says the trips allow today’s “wired generation” to reconnect with the out-of-doors in ways that help them become responsible, self-confident and self-reliant.

The teens were backpacking in Teton Wilderness. They had been hanging bags in trees to keep them away from bears, when, Sheriff’s Capt. Tripp Wilson says, a 75-foot dead tree was uprooted and fell on the girl, killing her instantly.

A rescue helicopter was flown into the wilderness area, which is off limits to mechanized travel except in emergencies, but Tripp said the girl was pronounced dead at the site.

Ellie was kneeling down tending to camp equipment about 66 feet away from the base of the tree when she was struck, witnesses said. She never regained consciousness.

A rescue helicopter was flown to the campsite, but Ellie was pronounced dead at the scene.

Rangers hiked out with other teens and their adult guides. Wilson said they met with crisis counselors at a lodge where they also spent the night.

According to Ellie’s friend Haley Killam, before the trip, Ellie said, ”’I can’t wait to be in the wilderness, like, without a phone or a computer, just, like, being outside, meeting new people.’ And I thought that was really cool.”

“It’s hard to imagine she’s not here because she was so full of life,” Chakoian said.

“You just have to look at it as she had a great life, although it was a little cut short,” Glennon said.

“I have some of the best memories of just laughing with her and just hanging out,” Whalley said. “I’m really gonna miss her.”

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