Memorial held for NC girl who died in Camp Cheerio zipline incident


WILMINGTON (WECT) — Crowds of friends and family attended the memorial service Monday afternoon for a girl who died in a zipline accident last week at an NC camp.

Bonnie Sanders Burney, 12, was killed in a zip line accident Thursday at Camp Cheerio in Glade Valley, according to the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office.

According to David Ozmore, the CEO of the YMCA of High Point, which runs Camp Cheerio, Burney fell from the zip line while tethered over land. Ozmore said the zip line became tangled to another line that ran parallel which cut the line and she fell about two stories to the ground.

EMTs were on site at the time and alternated CPR on Burney. Ozmore said the camp has doctors and nurses on staff because of its remote location.

Burney was taken to a nearby hospital, but Ozmore said the injuries from the fall were too severe to overcome.

Around a dozen children and camp counselors were nearby at the time of the fall, but not all saw what happened, Ozmore said.

“This is the first major incident we’ve had in 60 years,” Ozmore said. “We’ve never had a tragedy like this.”

According to Burney’s obituary, she was called “Sanders” and just completed 6th grade cum laude at St. Mark Catholic School.

“Sanders is a very lively, intelligent and sweet soul. She is adored by her many friends, teachers and family. She… had received the most improved tennis award. Sanders loves the beach, the family camp and is an avid reader. Her spirit, enthusiasm and passion for life is contagious. There are no words to describe how much she will be missed,” her obituary said.

The service was held at St. James Episcopal Church in Wilmington with a reception that followed in the Lee Parish Hall.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Mark Catholic School in Sanders’ name, her obituary said.

Around 400 children are at Camp Cheerio this week and grief counselors were on site.

The zip lines are closed and off limits until an investigation is complete into what happened.

Ozmore said all safety precautions were followed.

“We do some dangerous things but we are always cognizant of safety. We inspect the zip line every year and we inspected it in the spring of this year,” said Ozmore. “We have certification training that our climbing staff went through and this instructor was one of our more mature staff.”

Ozmore said the camp is evaluating its operations in the wake of the accident.

“What we have to do is we have to look at everything we did, good, bad or indifferent,” he said. “We have to look at and honestly ask ourselves, did we make a mistake? Were we diligent?”

The Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office said the case is still under review.

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