Lake Forest girl killed by tree in Wyoming

July 19, 2011 (LAKE FOREST, Ill.)

Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Burns was killed Monday when a tree fell on top of her. She was backpacking in the Teton wilderness in Wyoming when the accident happened.

Burns was the youngest of three girls. Her father Michael Burns is a former alderman in Lake Forest.

Even at the age of 16, Burns was making her mark on the world. She was on the varsity pompom squad, was part of a mentoring program at her school, and she was a member of her church's youth group.

But, most recently, Burns as on a camping trip. While some other campers were tying food to a tree, apparently, that tree was dead, and it uprooted, hitting Burns 60 feet away.

Word spread Tuesday afternoon among summer school students at Lake Forest High School: A young woman active in school activities going into her junior year was killed Monday in a camping accident in Wyoming.

Sasha Lundin was a classmate of Elizabeth Burns, who everyone knew as "Ellie."

"She was a really good photographer from my opinion," said Lundin. "I could tell that she a lot of hopeful and joyful inspiration."

School administrators are trying to help students work through their grieving and are shocked themselves about the tragic news.

"A tragedy like this is something that just stuns everyone," said Lake Forest High School District Superintendent Dr. Harry Griffith. "It's important to think about ways we can help the family and our students who are so affected by this."

"Elizabeth Burns was just a wonderful girl who was a scholar, an athlete, a friend to many...she is really gonna missed by a lot of people," said Lake Forest High School Principal Jay Hoffman.

The minister at First Presbyterian Church has been offering support to the Burns' family and friends. Rev. Christine Chakoian says Ellie had an unforgettable presence and most recently was involved in the church's youth group helping underprivileged children.

"Ellie was a faithful, spirited young woman who never let anything get her down for very long," Rev. Chakioan said.

Family members are asking for privacy as they cope with this tragedy. At this point, a service is planned for Saturday, but details have not been confirmed.

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