Couple honored for helping after horrific, fatal car crash

Back row, from left to right: Commissioner Terry Burroughs, Commissioner Bradley Goodbread and Commissioner David Hazellief. Front row, from left to right: Commissioner Kelly Owens, Kelly Adelberg, Dr. Jonathan Adelberg and Commissioner Bryant Culpepper.

OKEECHOBEE – At their Aug. 9 meeting, the Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners presented Dr. Jonathan Adelberg and his wife, Kelly Adelberg, with a Humanitarian Service Award for their efforts in helping victims of a horrific head-on traffic crash involving two cars and semi-trailer that occurred on May 11 north of town.

Commissioner Bryant Culpepper spoke briefly before the board presented the award to the couple.

“It would have been very easy for them to just bypass that accident scene and continue on to work, because today we live in a very litigious society,” said Commissioner Culpepper. “But they took that chance and stopped to offer help and do triage. Too many times we get so caught up in our own daily lives that we don’t make that kind of commitment to our fellow humans. And they did.”

The Adelbergs were traveling south on U.S. 441 near Fort Drum on their way to work when they came upon a accident that had happened just moments prior. The accident had occurred when a 2010 Dodge Challenger traveling south, driven by Michael A. Murph, attempted to overtake a semi-trailer. As the Challenger went into the northbound lane, it collided head-on with a 2014 Kia Sportage driven by Valerie Edlemon, who had her daughter, Tonya Macon, and grandson Jalen Edlemon as passengers. The family were heading to Disney World to celebrate young Jalen’s birthday.

After stopping their car, Kelly Adelberg got out of the vehicle to assist while Dr. Adelburg began to help the victims. Another truck approached the accident and attempted to drive through the scene. With victims still lying in the road, Kelly stood in front of the truck, not allowing it to pass and potentially cause further injury to the victims.

Valerie Edlemon and her daughter Tonya Macon were pronounced dead at the scene upon the arrival of EMTs; Jalen was transported to Raulerson Hospital, but he also passed away shortly after. Michael Murph survived with minor injuries. The 2010 Dodge Challenger that Murph was driving was reported stolen out of West Palm Beach, according to Florida Highway Patrol Lieutenant Alvaro A. Feola.

“I want to thank all the commissioners and everyone for recognizing us,” said Dr. Adelberg. “However, I am the county medical director that supervises fire rescue, so on that day I feel like I was just doing my job. But my wife, Kelly, and the other members of fire rescue that came to the scene did a great job and deserve the vast majority of the recognition.”

Commissioner Kelly Owens concluded by echoing the thoughts of Dr. Adelberg in regard to his wife.

“When you’re used to emergency response you can go into that mode,” said Commissioner Owens, “but when you’re not and you’re thrown into that situation and you act that way, it’s very admirable.”

Richard Marion is a staff writer and photographer at Lake Okeechobee News and can be reached at rmarion@newszap.com.

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