Christian Faith Benge’s love of God and strong faith are what her family says they will remember most about the 16-year-old who died from a medical condition after visiting the Land of Illusion attraction Friday night.
Benge, a sophomore at New Miami High School, was transported to Atrium Medical Center after collapsing inside one of the haunted houses at Land of Illusion in Madison Twp., officials said. She died at the hospital from a medical condition, according to the Warren County Coroner’s Office. An autopsy is underway, said Doyle Burke, deputy coroner.
“She got halfway through and just collapsed,” her grandmother Betty Benge said. “She was almost through it.” Christian was at the attraction with about 100 friends and family members, according to her mother, Jean Benge.
Medical officials told the family part of her heart was enlarged four times its size. “They said she was like a time bomb,” Betty Benge said.
Jean Benge told the Journal-News that her daughter was born with congenital diaphragmatic hernia, which prevents the lungs from developing normally.
“The heart had to compensate for the lung … it just stopped,” she said.
Jean said her “mother instinct” kicked in as she performed CPR on her daughter.
“I did CPR until the paramedics arrived. And I trust God. He has the ultimate plan,” she said as she talked to reporters at Full Gospel Church, 2117 Eaton Road. “She’s better off than we are … because of her faith in Christ I know she’s home.”
There was no injury-causing accident that happened at the haunted park, owner Brett Oakley said.
“It was a very unfortunate situation,” Oakley said.
Christian was an active member of Full Gospel Church, where she sang in the choir, according to her family.
“Those memories of her up here singing and pouring out her heart to everyone is the fondest memory I have of her,” said Christian’s aunt Julene Adams.
Grandparents described Christian as a kind, gentle, lovable person.
“You couldn’t find a better kid than she was,” said her grandfather Ernest Benge, pastor at Full Gospel Church for more than 30 years.
“We don’t understand it, but you just survive it,” he said. “She was one of the kids you never have to correct.”
Christian was born with a very low chance of living, according to her grandfather. She sometimes had breathing problems, he said.
“I just wish there were more giving and more loving like she lived her life. She’s always been a kid that never complained, even through all the operations she went through,” he said.