WCU Sophomore Dies Without Warning

Western Carolina University sophomore Deanna Riley, 19, of Cander, died March 28 after going into cardiac arrest in the McDonald’s parking lot on exit 9 off of I-26, near the Asheville Airport.

James Quattelbaum, a WCU freshman, and the driver of the vehicle Riley had been riding in, said that he pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot, exited his vehicle, looked back and saw Riley seizing in the passenger’s seat.

Riley had stopped breathing, and a bystander began CPR on Riley in the parking lot. First responders then arrived and took over CPR.

An advanced life support unit was next to arrive. Paramedics hooked an AED, defibrillator, to Riley. The machine advised paramedics that there was heart activity that could be reset to normal rhythm.

Paramedics shocked Riley three times en route to Park Ridge Hospital, located off of exit 13 outside of Hendersonville, where she was later pronounced dead.

Riley’s body was later transported to Fletcher Regional Hospital, where an autopsy was performed. The autopsy was inconclusive as to what led to the seizure.

At the request of her mother, Riley’s body was transported to Florida, where she will be buried.

WCU junior Chris Pegram, a close friend of Riley’s, was at a loss for words.

“What can I say, she was awesome,” said Pegram. ” She had one of the best personalities I have ever seen. She always thought about everyone else and never about herself. She will be missed by all that knew her.”

Another friend of Riley’s, WCU sophomore Tim Osbourne, stated that “Deanna was a true friend, in that she cared about everyone that she held close and wasn’t afraid to let you know it. Her laughter, smile, and presence will be missed by everyone who was lucky enough to call her a friend.”

A memorial service will be held Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in Biscoe, North Carolina at Page Memorial United Methodist Church.

Friends of Riley’s will also be holding a candlelight vigil on the UC lawn this Friday, Riley’s birthday, at 8:00 p.m. She would have been 20 years-old.