ANDERSONVILLE — An Andersonville man died Saturday after becoming ill and collapsing following a ride at Six Flags Great America in suburban Gurnee.
Scott Barnes, a 50-year-old photographer and editor, was at the amusement park with a group of friends attending an LGBT "Out in the Park" event, according to those who knew him.
Barnes had been walking around with friends enjoying the day's festivities and had ridden one of the park's attractions when he suddenly began to not feel well and eventually collapsed, according to Lake County Coroner Howard Cooper.
He was taken by ambulance to Advocate-Condell Medical Center in Libertyville where he was pronounced dead.
Barnes was seen by a physician and an autopsy was not performed, Cooper said, but the death appeared to be natural, he added.
Another attendee of the event, Chris Mack, said he was waiting in line for the popular Superman ride when he saw Barnes exit the ride with his group and then fall to the ground.
A friend of Barnes turned toward the waiting crowd in line and frantically asked if anyone knew CPR, said Mack.
A woman who was in front of him replied that she was a nurse and rushed to assist Barnes, he said.
She administered CPR until paramedics arrived and whisked Barnes away to a hospital.
Workers quickly shut down the ride and cleared the line, Mack said.
Six Flags did not respond to request for comment.
Now, during a time when Barnes and his friends would normally plan a birthday party, his bereaved loved ones are instead planning his funeral.
The Indiana native would have turned 51 on Tuesday.
Visitation for family and friends will take place from 4-8 p.m. Friday at Geisen-Carlisle Funeral Home, 613 Washington St. in Michigan City, IN and his funeral follows the next day.
Leading up to his untimely death, those close to Barnes said he was experiencing a high point in his life.
Jay Howard Cook was a friend of Barnes for 17 years, 12 of which they were a couple. He said Barnes was the "happiest I have ever seen him" in the month before he died.
"He got to see Lady Gaga at Wrigley Field, then a friend flew him to Detroit to see U2," Cook said. "He said the concerts were life-changing for him."
Not only that, but Barnes, a talented photographer, had cultivated a strong career taking portraits across various fields, and helping others make their own careers along the way.
"Scott started slowly, shoot by shoot, model by model," Cook said. "His work has been featured in shows and galleries from coast to coast, several magazines, and books. More than a few famous male models got their start in Indianapolis because of Scott’s keen eye for taking someone — anyone — and turning them into art."
Danny Beers, another friend, said because he also had a passion for photography, he gravitated toward Barnes for his "gift" in the art form.
"He was truly an inspiration," Beers said. "[It's] such a loss."
Beers works at The SoFo Tap 4923 N. Clark St. and said in mid-October there will be a curated exhibit of Barnes' work available for viewing there.
In the meantime, friends are planning a memorial at Barnes' favorite bar, Elixir, in Andersonville.
Those who wish to remember him can stop by from 7-9 p.m. Sept. 20 at 1509 W. Balmoral Ave. Some proceeds from the night are being donated to causes important to Barnes.
For those in the midst of grieving, Cook offered this: "I know your hearts are heavy with pain, but please remember — we need to live each day the way Scott died: with a smile and laughter."