Driver in VA Buggy Crash Charged With Manslaughter; Over $300K Raised For 8 Orphans

Back in October we learned the sad news of two Amish parents in their late 30s being killed in a car-buggy crash in the Farmville, Virginia community. The buggy in which John and Barbie Esh were traveling with their eight children was struck from behind in the evening while on their way home from a friend’s place. One parent died on the scene and the other succumbed the next day at the hospital.

Photo: Virginia State Police

Eight children, ranging in age from just 9 months old to 16 years were left orphaned. A new report from the Roanoke Times gives more details on the crash, including one detail you might consider miraculous, as well as charges brought against the car driver:

One of the couple’s sons was driving the buggy, the father was in front passenger seat and the mother was in the back holding an infant at the time of the crash, said Powhatan Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Cerullo, who was appointed special prosecutor in the case.

“By the grace of God, the child was not injured,” Cerullo said. “She was ejected from the buggy and the child was found…a number of yards away from the vehicle. The mother was deceased, the child was fine. That was a miracle.”

Two of the couple’s children had to be flown by Medflight helicopter due to the extent of their injuries, Cerullo said. “They had substantial surgeries but they survived,” the prosecutor said.

Cerullo said the family had traveled to a friend’s home to visit and were returning home when the crash occurred.

The horse pulling the buggy had to be euthanized. The buggy was equipped with the required “Slow Moving Vehicle” triangle placard, as well as working headlights and taillights, police said.

I find it amazing, for lack of a better word, both that the baby survived while its mother who’d been holding it died, and also that all eight children survived while both parents were killed. I guess there’s not always an explanation for why things turn out how they do sometimes. Or perhaps the children were being watched over that autumn night.

The car driver was indicted Tuesday on two counts of manslaughter and one of reckless driving. He initially continued driving after striking the buggy, but returned to the scene a short while later.

There was also a report back in October on money raised to support the children and pay off the family’s mortgage. At the time it was reported that $290,000 had been raised. Checking the two fundraising pages, it looks like that number has exceeded $300,000. There was this comment on the children given at the time, by a friend of the family: “They are grieving, but they greet me with a smile and always are grateful for anything I bring from donations or myself, and always thank me, or send thanks to whomever is contributing.”

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    1. BH

      Were the children adopted?

      Was there any information about if the children were adopted as a family? I remember the words of one of the daughters: “My life would be perfect if my parents were alive.” So so sad.


      Prayer for healing

      My grandfather was in a car/train accident in 1919 that had a similar sad ending. His mother was holding him in the passenger seat when the car reportedly stalled and was hit by a train. My great grandmother was caught on the cow catcher on the front of the train and miraculously, continued to keep hold of him until the train was able to stop. When authorities arrived, they heard my the then toddler-age grandfather wailing from several hundred yards away, unharmed and still in his mother’s arms. His mother and the driver both died on the scene. My grandfather went on to live to the ripe old age of 92 and I’m so thankful for his mother’s grip on him. I would not be here without her.
      Much love and comfort go out to this precious family. Sometimes there are no words or answers on this side of heaven but there can be peace found in the situation. My prayer is for healing.

    3. Chrissie

      Orphaned children

      Hi Erick do you know if the children will be raised with family or friends? Just wondering if anybody has stepped up to take care of the kids. Thanks so much.

    4. Nadine

      8 Orphaned Children

      Hello Erick,

      I pray that these children can stay together as a family as these children will need each other for emotional strength in the days and years to come.

      Blessings to this family and those caring for them!

    5. Dan Holsinger

      Deadly buggy accidents seem to quite frequent among horse and buggy Old Orders. I always wonder if it isn’t possible to build some sort of safety “cage” or “box” inside a buggy that is much stronger than the rest of the buggy in order to keep the passengers inside somehow safer.

      There are some new materials that are quite strong and light like the carbon materials that are used for bicycle frames or titanium or even steel alloys. Does anybody know if there are people who try to construct buggies in a more resistant way that they just don’t shatter and fragment easily?