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  • Sara Doan, Northeast Arkansas News

Friends of former A-State athlete injured in car crash speak out

Updated: Jun 10, 2021

LAKE CITY, Ark- We have an update to bring you on a wreck that shut down Highway 18 a week ago in Lake City.

As we learn the driver, who is now in stable condition, is a former cross-country athlete at Arkansas State University.

KJNB Northeast Arkansas News speaks with friends of JeLynn Tatum to hear how she’s recovering.

JeLynn Tatum was driving in Lake City when she hydroplaned and collided with a semi-truck.

The former A-State athlete was airlifted to a Memphis hospital.

Two friends and former teammates are speaking out about the crash that left the star athlete now paralyzed.

“It’s just the start of her life. She’s going to do big things. So, I think like it’s been a rollercoaster of feeling really hurt by it but feeling really positive that it’s going to be better,” says friend Parker Sitton.

Sitton and Gillette say they were in shock after hearing the news, saying they held onto any positive information they heard in the hours and days after the crash.

Tatum was driving on Highway 18 in Lake City when she hydroplaned, losing control of her car, and collided with a semi-truck on the rear passenger’s side.

She had to be cut from the vehicle by the Lake City Fire Department and was attended to by paramedics.

After being flown to the hospital, Tatum was given a diagnosis that she is paralyzed.

She has no feeling from the waist down but, she can move her upper body.

Tatum underwent surgery to realign her spine.

While it was successful, it did not fix her paralysis.

While it is horrible news, her friends are grateful it wasn’t worse.

“The ones that helped her out of the car. And they said they’ve never seen anybody get in a wreck like that and come out of it alive, nonetheless stable,” says Tatum’s friend Elizabeth Gillette.

“It was looking like it was going to be a lot worse, and by the grace of God, it wasn’t. You just look at it [her car] and, you think there’s no way, there’s no way she should be here and, then you realize what a miracle it is that she is here,” says Sitton.

Since the accident, the paramedics who helped save Tatum’s life were able to visit her in the hospital.

She’s a 2020 Arkansas State grad and a former distance runner as a four-year member of the cross country and track and field team.

Both Gillette and Sitton say she is optimistic about her future.

“Not only is she a runner but, she avidly works out and, she has tremendous core strength and upper body strength,” Sitton said. “And so, I think we both kinda see this possibility like ‘wow, JeLynn could go on to do some really amazing things athletically even after this diagnosis.’”

“She’s extremely optimistic and extremely outgoing and, I think that’s like…the best thing about this situation,” says Gillette. “She has the ability to overcome it.”

Tatum is improving as she was moved out of the ICU, but Gillette says she has a long road ahead of her.

Her family has created a Go Fund Me to help support her medical bills and costs related to the accident.

Within the first few days the account surpassed it's funding goal.

“This is a very severe injury and, there is a lot of hard costs that come with it to just JeLynn, her family. So, we appreciate the support that everyone’s given monetarily, and any future support, we would just say thank you,” says Sitton.

You can find the link to the Go Fund Me below:


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