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The sudden death of a 29-year-old teacher with flu-like symptoms has medical officials scrambling to figure out what killed her.
Rhonda Napier was pronounced dead Saturday morning at her Dana Drive home, according to Anderson County Coroner Dr. Mark Tussey.
Tussey said she had been ill with flu-like symptoms, and had visited a doctor a couple of days earlier.
“This is shocking to all of us and scary,” Tussey said Monday morning. “The flu doesn’t normally kill people. That’s why we’ve put on a full-court press to exclude H1N1,” among other possible causes.
Napier was a lead teacher at the Anderson County Head Start program at the Stringtown Ruritan Club. Co-workers there were struck particularly hard about the news of her death.
“It was a big shock,” said Tammy Moore, the site supervisor. “It’s going to be tough on all of us for quite a while.”
“She will be greatly missed,” added Sandy Ritchie, another lead teacher at Head Start.
Tussey said Napier’s cause of death remains under investigation, but has ruled out foul play. He said an autopsy was performed Saturday morning at the medical examiner’s office in Frankfort.
“The medical examiner’s office was gracious enough to bump us to the front of the line,” Tussey said, adding that he and his deputy coroner were present.
Tussey said fluid samples were drawn to rule out causes such as meningitis, along with blood tests for toxicology and H1N1.
“The results are pending,” he said, adding that it could take up to four weeks to find out.
Tussey said he has stepped up the investigation because it’s very unusual for someone so young to die that way.
“We’re doing a very thorough investigation because flu doesn’t usually kill a 29-year-old,” he said. “Especially a healthy young woman like her.”
Tussey has vowed to get to the bottom of her death.
“I told the family I would do everything I know to do as a professional to get the answers they need,” he said. “I’m pursuing this as hard as I know how.”
Tussey said Napier’s death will be hard for her family.
“It’s just a tragedy,” he said. “She was a mother and had two young children. I feel for her family. It’s going to be difficult for them to lose their mother.”