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 ‘I Was Living with an Angel’: California Cheerleader Who Survived Car Accident That Left Her with Broken Legs, Dies Suddenly After Suffering Severe Headaches

A 16-year-old Berkeley girl who became known after surviving a devastating taxi crash in elementary school has suddenly died, leaving her family, classmates, friends, and admirers with a myriad of questions.

Lillia Bartlow, a sophomore in Berkeley High School’s International Baccalaureate Program, died on March 17, the Berkeley Scanner reported.

On the day that she passed Bartlow came home from school saying she was not feeling well and complaining about her headaches. She had been suffering from the headaches since January, but doctors had not determined their source.

California cheerleader dies suddenly
Lillia Bartlow died on March 17, 2023. (Photo: @BHSjacketSports/Twitter)

The student died in her home.

Those close to the young lady were shocked at her premature demise, especially after she survived getting hit while crossing Claremont Avenue near John Muir Elementary at the age of 9.

The fourth grader had both of her legs broken in the accident. Family members expected the young girl to remain in her wheelchair for at least a year, but she started walking a lot sooner.

Many people heard about her accident and came out to support her, like the UC Berkeley cheerleading squad and Cal’s mascot, Oski the Bear. The Cal squad was particularly attached to her because she and her dad would often support their games.

“The girls showed her a lot of love,” her dad said.

On her first day back to school, the local fire department helped to brighten her day.

Since the accident, the Berkeley community rallied around Bartlow, nurturing the dynamo into the bright and inspiring teen she became.

Her father, Darryl Bartlow, called her “an angel.”

“I was living with an angel. She was as near perfect as perfect can be in a human being,” the bereaved father shared.

She was so beloved in her city. The Berkeley City Council ended its March 21 meeting remembering the teen.

The Berkeley Unified School District released a statement: “Our hearts go out to the family of Lillia Bartlow at this very difficult time. Lillia was a wonderful and promising young person who will be deeply missed at Berkeley High School and in the BUSD community.”

The district also offered counseling support to students.

But it was her school family who took to social media to express just how heartbroken the faculty and students were by her death.

“Words cannot express how sad our College Bound Academy family is right now! We will forever remember our College Bound Berkeley Academy Scholar, Lillia Bartlow! Such an inspiring and intelligent CB Scholar full of life!” the program posted on Facebook. “

The school’s athletics department tweeted, “Our hearts break with the tragic passing of Lillia Bartlow. Great person, student, athlete, and cheer teammate.  #onceajacketalwaysajacket❤️ We miss you!”

Her cheer coach, Tiffany Sutherland, is sad but is aware of how heavy the loss is weighing on the rest of her squad sisters — noting what her absence will mean to the group.

“Her energy and her smile and her laugh … it helped the morale of everyone. She never gave me a hard day, she never missed practice, she never missed a game,” said Sutherland.

The teachers have been prepared to share grief support resources with classmates who are struggling with her sudden death.

As a high school student, Bartlow excelled, joining clubs and finding a passion for foreign languages. She was a member of the College Bound Academy, the junior varsity cheerleading squad, and spoke four languages.

The 10th grader spoke English, French, and Arabic fluently and was conversant in Berber, a northwestern African language.

In addition to her academics and extracurricular activities, Bartlow worked a part-time job at Shirley’s Designs & Alterations on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland.

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