Ute accident claims life of Casino teen
By JANE GARDNER
CASINO teen Elke Brennand had it all ? dozens of friends, a gregarious personality, loving family, and fantastic new job.
But just as she was about to begin her adult life, it ended suddenly and an entire community has been devastated.
Elke fell from the back of a utility on a Woodburn property last Saturday, suffering a blow to her head. She never regained consciousness and spent her last days on life support. She died on Thursday night surrounded by relatives at the age of 16 years and 82 days.
Elke's mum, Julie McDonnell, yesterday described her youngest as a 'stunningly beautiful' girl who didn't possess the ability to judge people.
"Whenever someone did something wrong, she couldn't understand it," Julie said. "Everyone who knew her, all the kids she befriended, agreed she was too good to be true."
Elke was the youngest of Julie's children, and has a twin sister Kali. She was incredibly close to her twin brothers Dane and Jesse, half-sister Jade and older siblings Rory and Kim McDonnell.
Julie said the entire family could not comprehend it. "It is so tragic. It is the worst possible scenario," she said.
"All of us kept looking for hope, like when her eyes would flicker."
Elke suffered a massive blow to her head, but the only physical signs of her trauma were a slight graze to her face.
"She's stunningly beautiful. She would take your breath away whenever she walked in to a room," Julie said.
Elke was about to get her driver's licence and loved her work as a secretary at Health By Choice in Lismore. She was also very well-known by students at Casino High School, who had been praying and sending their best wishes since the accident.
Elke's older brother, Rory McDonnell, boarded the first flight to Australia from Oregon in America when he heard. "She's our baby," he said through his tears.
Plans for her memorial and funeral are still being made, but Julie yesterday made a special plea to local teens dealing with their grief.
"There have been a lot of tragic deaths here and in Lismore lately and it's going to be really tough for the kids to go through another blow ? but please, I don't want kids using this as an excuse to drink and party ? please respect Elke and don't do that," she said.