ORCUTT, Calif. - The deadly flu virus sweeping the country and the Central Coast has claimed a former Orcutt woman who died suddenly last week in Bakersfield despite being in good health.
Michele Maroney-Placencia grew up in Orcutt and attended St. Joseph High School. Her death has former classmates and friends turning to social media to talk about her sudden passing.
Family members say Maroney-Placencia was in good health when she suddenly came down with flu-like symptoms more than a week ago.
The 39-year-old mother of five was rushed to a hospital in the Bakersfield area and died soon after arriving.
Her grief-stricken father Wes Maroney is well-known in the Santa Maria Valley for his career with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department and later as Chief of the Allan Hancock College Police Department.
Maroney struggled with his emotions as he addressed the media after his daughter passed away.
"I lost my daughter. I don't want anyone else to have to go through this," Maroney said last week. "Parents don't bury your kids and so we agreed that we would do this so that other people would take it serious and understand this flu season is as extremely dangerous as there has ever been."
Maroney-Placencia's death has stunned her former classmates and friends on the Central Coast.
"I heard many times the flu was bad this year," said former St. Joseph High classmate Jeremy Rich. "You never think it will actually affect somebody you know. Then to hear that it was her and it was the flu, I was completely shocked."
On the Central Coast, 15 people have died from the flu or flu-like symptoms in San Luis Obispo County during the current flu season. Eight people have died in Santa Barbara County.