K-State researcher dies of smoke inhalation; no others injured

By The Mercury

A Kansas State University researcher died in a late-night apartment fire in Manhattan on Wednesday and investigators are still searching for a cause.

Emergency responders were first called to 820 Sunset Ave. a little before midnight for reports of smoke. There, they found Vasanta Lakshmi Pallem, 34, in medical distress.

Riley County EMS transported Pallem to Mercy Regional Health Center, where she died of smoke inhalation.

Pallem worked in K-State’s chemical engineering department.

Officials said the apartment building, which has 12 units, is mostly occupied by students, but no one else was injured in the fire.

Heather Reed, associate dean and director of student life, said the university worked to find living accommodations for students displaced by the blaze. She said the university is also offering support to students impacted by Pallem’s death.

The Riley County Police Department, Manhattan Fire Department, ATF and the Kansas State Fire Marshal are investigating the cause of the fire, which has not yet been identified as accidental or incendiary.

Anyone with information related to the fire is asked to contact the police department at (785)-537-2112 or Manhattan/Riley County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or send a web tip to www.manhattanrileycountycrimestoppers.com.

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