A Letcher County school district employee is coming home this week after spending more than a month in two separate hospitals after sustaining serious injuries in a freak accident while on vacation.
A tree fell on Michelle Tilley, 41, of Pike County, on July 10 while she was in a cemetery at Cades Cove, a valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Mrs. Tilley, an aide in the structured classroom for autistic students at West Whitesburg Elementary School, was treated at the University of Tennessee Trauma Center before being transported to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta July 22.
Mrs. Tilley was scheduled to return to Letcher County on August 28. A welcome home party for her will be held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 1, at Millstone Missionary Baptist Church.
“We are inviting everyone,” said Lesley Richardson, a friend of the Tilleys. “The community has been so supportive between the roadblock, dinner and Tshirts. And the number of people who have just written personal checks and given to them has been overwhelming.”
Mrs. Tilley, her husband Billy and their two children had been vacationing with Billy Tilley’s best friend Jonathon Richardson, his wife Lesley and their two children since July 3. The families have campers at Cherokee Lake.
The group had stopped near an old church to look at a deer. Jonathon Richardson took a close-up photograph of the deer and everyone except Billy Tilley was standing in a cemetery located adjacent to the church looking at the photo on the screen of a digital camera.
The group heard the tree fall and tried to run away from it, Lesley Richardson said. Mrs. Tilley was holding her one-year-old daughter and used her body to shield her daughter from the tree. The one-year-old and the Richardsons’ sevenyear old son both suffered scratched heads and were taken to a hospital.
The Tilleys live near the Letcher-Pike county line. The Richardsons live in Thornton.