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Morrow candidate: Hit-run accident was ‘horrible’

Morrow mayoral candidate, Joseph “J.B.” Burke, said he can only remember brief, unconnected parts of a hit-and-run, automobile accident he was involved in earlier this week, as well as the moments immediately following the crash.

Burke’s car was hit by a stolen Cadillac Escalade last Sunday evening, on Morrow Road, in Morrow, and Burke had to be taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, in Atlanta, for treatment of his injuries. Those include a broken left hand, fractured ribs and a punctured lung.

The 61-year old, who is running against Jeff DeTar in Morrow’s mayoral race, spent several days in Grady’s intensive care unit.

“I remember looking over, and seeing the other car coming towards me, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, he’s not going to stop’ –– and he didn’t,” said Burke, on Friday, during a telephone interview from Grady. “The next thing I remember, the EMS officer was telling me, ‘Don’t worry J.B., you’re going to be OK. Hang in there J.B.,’ and I was in the ambulance.

“I was just in and out of consciousness, because the next thing I remember, I was waking up in ICU. It was just horrible.”

Burke said his doctors are projecting his recover from his accident-related injuries will take six to eight weeks for him to complete, mainly because of his rib injuries. He added that he has been moved out of ICU to a regular hospital room, and the surgery he will need to repair the damage to his left hand has been put off, for now, by his doctors.

He explained, with a weakened voice, that he is still suffering from shortness of breath, because of his injuries. “I’m trying to get by,” he said. “They are trying to get my blood pressure under control, so they have postponed my surgery. I don’t know when they’ll do the surgery now. They keep going back and forth on when they’ll do it. I just wish they’d make a decision soon, so we could get this over with.”

Police are still searching for a 6-foot-tall black male, with a heavy-set, athletic build, who was seen walking away from the scene of the accident. He is believed to have been the driver of the Escalade, which police have said was stolen in Fulton County before the accident.

A Morrow police traffic investigator, who has been tracking down leads to try and locate the suspect, said earlier this week, that the man allegedly ran a stop sign on Clearbrook Drive, where it intersects with Morrow Road, and hit Burke’s 2006 Toyota Scion. The suspect had fled the scene on foot, before police arrived.

A witness previously said the suspect stopped briefly, opened Burke’s car door, looked at the injured Burke, then left the scene.

Police have confirmed that the Escalade is the property of McDonough resident, Reginald D. Dunson. A working phone number for Dunson could not be located on Friday.

Several of Burke’s relatives came down from North Carolina on Monday, to help care for him. He said, on Friday, their presence has been comforting over the last week as he recovers from his injuries. “Without them being here, it would have been difficult,” he said. “They’ve been wonderful.”

Burke said some of his relatives have already gone back to North Carolina, but his mother and sister have stayed in Atlanta. He added that his sister is expected to stay with him for “an extended period,” until he fully recovers from his injuries.

The candidate added that he does not see his accident hurting his bid to be elected next month as Morrow’s next mayor. He said, although he has not been able to personally campaign for the office for the past week, others have been doing the campaigning for him, so he could focus on his recovery.

He said the state Democratic Party headquarters has offered to do a telemarketing blitz in Morrow in the coming week, on his behalf, and supporters have been visiting his home to pick up yard signs, to place in other people’s yards.

“I don’t think it will have any impact on my chances of getting elected,” he said. “People know who I am, and I don’t think they’ll view me as being unfit to serve as mayor just because of my accident ... My recovery is the most important thing right now, and I’m going to focus on that, so I can come back stronger than before.”

Anyone with information about the accident, can call Morrow Police Sgt. Harry Hess, at (770) 961-4006.