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Emporia teacher dead after lightning strike

September 15, 2011|by Rebecca White and Megan Strader | KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
Courtesy Emporia Public Schools

(EMPORIA, Kan.) — The Coffey County Sheriff's office confirms that Patti Gilliam, a teacher at Emporia High School, died Saturday after being struck by lightning.

The Sheriff’s office says on September 10th Gilliam was riding her bike on top of the John Redmond Reservoir Dam when the weather turned bad.

Police say Gilliam turned around and was heading home when she was hit by lightning. She was by herself but other people around saw what happened and called 911. Emergency crews say they were called at 6:21 p.m.

The Coffey County Undersheriff said it was a “freak storm” and that there were no warnings. Gilliam was taken to the Coffey County Hospital and then taken to Topeka.

Gilliam taught Spanish classes since 2006 and was the advisor for the school's hispanic organization.

"She was like a mother to me and it's just sad she's not here anymore," said Nancy Cervantes, a student at Emporia High School.

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Another student, Rocio Vega, addds, "Everybody is really sad. They're just trying to get by, not seeing her anymore."

Micheal Torres, who graduated last year even came back to the high school today to be with other students, and mourn Gilliams death.

"Even when she just a person she could tell there were difficulties in their life and she wanted help in some way, whether it was to make them laugh or give them serious advice, she was that kind of person she was."

The high school brought in councilors today to work with students and faculty.

The Emporia school district released a statement saying, “Mrs. Gilliam was a well-respected teacher at Emporia High School. She was a friend to both teachers and students. This is a difficult day for us dealing with her loss.”

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