Teen dies after collapsing in Middletown haunted house attraction

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — A 16-year-old girl died Friday night after walking through a Middletown haunted house attraction, authorities said.

The Warren County Coroner's Office reports Christian Faith Benge died from a medical condition after visiting the Land of Illusion Haunted Scream Park, a popular Halloween-themed Tri-State attraction.

The teen was transported to Atrium Medical Center after collapsing inside one of the park's "haunted houses," officials said. She died at the hospital and an autopsy is currently underway.

“She got halfway through (the house) and just collapsed,” her grandmother Betty Benge said. “She was almost through it.”

Land of Illusion features "four haunted houses and one haunted trail with terrors that never string you up the same way twice," its website states. The park boasts "live spooks, lunatics and chainsaw-wielding madmen."

Land of Illusion owner Brett Oakley said no "injury accident" at the attraction caused Christian's death.

“It was a very unfortunate situation,” Oakley said.

Christian was a sophomore at New Miami High School and an active member of Eaton Road Full Gospel Church, where she sang in the choir, according to her obituary.

Her grandparents described her as a kind, gentle and lovable person.

“You couldn’t find a better kid than she was," her grandfather Ernest Benge said. Ernest has been the pastor at Full Gospel Church in St. Clair Township 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 had a birth defect and was born with a very low chance of living, Ernest told WCPO news partner, The Journal-News. He said she was living with one lung and sometimes had breathing problems.

Despite health problems, Ernest said Christian's death was sudden and unexpected.

Medical officials said part of Christian's heart was enlarged - four times bigger than it should have been.

“They said she was like a time bomb,” her grandmother Betty said.

Her mother said Christian would come alive during worship, and felt most at home at church.

"Because she was kind of a little more bold, so she led most of the songs for the kids here," Jean Benge said.

"The mother instinct kicked in when I started the CPR and I did the CPR until the paramedics arrived and I just trusted God, he has an ultimate plan. It was just time," Jean said of her daughter's death. "She's better off than we are, she made the final change in life and because of her faith in Christ, I know she's home."

Christian's family will forever miss her, and had no idea something was wrong Friday night.

"Is this something that occurred because she had a heightened sense of fear? Or is this something that she could have been walking down the street and this occurred? We may never know that, but there's really no way to medically pinpoint that," said Doyle Burke, Warren County chief investigator.

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