Candlelight vigil planned for accident victims

OKEECHOBEE — A candlelight vigil is scheduled to be held in honor of the three victims of a May 11 traffic crash that occurred on U.S. 441 near State Road 60.

Valerie Edlemon, 66, Tonya Macon, 49, and Jalen Edlemon, 14, were all traveling north on 441 in a Kia Sportage when a Dodge Challenger traveling south that was driven by Micheal Murph crossed into their lane while attempting to overtake a semi-trailer. The southbound Challenger collided head-on with the northbound Kia in the northbound lane.

Valerie J. Edlemon and Tonya L. Macon were pronounced dead at the scene. Jalen Edlemon was transported to Raulerson Hospital in Okeechobee, where he later passed away. Micheal Murph sustained only minor injuries, while his passenger Vernisha Murph was seriously injured.

Pam Barton says her daughter, Sabriel Goettert, was best friends with Jalen and she hopes the vigil can help her and other community members find closure after the tragic loss of life.

“My daughter said Jalen was her one true friend,” said Ms. Barton. “He was the one that could always make her laugh. So when we learned that he had passed, it was just devastating. Jalen’s entire family in Okeechobee were just him, his mom, and grandma. And they all passed in the accident. The rest of the family is in Nebraska, so of course they are not going to have a service here. Because of that the kids didn’t really get their closure.

“With how hard it hit home and with how hurt my daughter was, I decided to help put this together not just for her but the other kids as well, because he had several very close friends he had known his entire life.”

The memorial will be held at 7 p.m. on June 1 at the Clif Betts Jr. Lakeside Recreation Area (aka Lock 7) on the fishing pier. Fifty paper lanterns will be lit and released in memory of the three who passed away, and there will be candles and a poster board with pictures of Jalen and his family. The public is welcomed and encouraged to attend to observe or share memories.

“He was her friend throughout middle school,” said Ms. Barton. “They had almost all their classes together. She’s still hurting over it and I know others are as well. I hope with this memorial the kids can have closure and peace and be able to say goodbye to their friend.”

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