Eight Children Left Orphaned After VA Buggy Crash

Eight children were left without parents after the family buggy was rear-ended Sunday in central Virginia. From the AP:

FARMVILLE — A Farmville man died Monday, a day after his wife was killed and their eight children were injured when their Amish horse-drawn buggy was rear-ended in Cumberland County, according to state police.

The buggy was traveling south on Cumberland Road before 8 p.m. Sunday with 10 family members on board when it was hit by a southbound Toyota Tundra, state police said in a news release. The pickup truck continued but returned a short time later, police said.

Barbie Esh, 38, of Farmville died at the scene; her husband, 39-year-old John Esh, was taken to a hospital, where he died Monday, police said. Their eight children, ages 9 months to 16 years, were taken to hospitals for treatment and two have been released.

Police initially said the horse was euthanized, but now say the horse survived its injuries. The buggy was equipped with the required “slow moving vehicle” placard and had working headlights and taillights, police said. (update: original article removed at source)

This community has families in both Cumberland and neighboring Buckingham County though Farmville itself lies in a neighboring county. It’s been a growing community in recent years, founded in 2016 by Amish from Lancaster County.

When I visited this community in 2019 I noticed a decent number of buggy warning signs in the area. But I’m not sure, really, how much good those actually do. Most Amish buggy accidents, like this one, are caused by local drivers who are well aware that they live around Amish people.

Last year, 15 Amish were injured in this community, though none fatally, in another crash.

There have been cases in the past when both parents in large Amish families have been killed, leaving behind young children. Ten years ago, twelve children were orphaned following a deadly accident in New York which claimed both parents’ lives. They were later adopted by a childless uncle and aunt from another state.

Neighbors and community in the Farmville area and beyond are there to help, including by setting up a GoFundMe for the children, in part at least to cover their medical expenses and their parents’ funeral costs. From NBC12:

Bryan knew Barbie and John Esh, along with their eight kids – often driving the kids to school.

She brings up the sad fact that the family was about two minutes from home when their buggy was struck from behind by a pickup truck.

“Some of the firefighters walked the horse from the scene to the barn. That’s how close they were to home,” Bryan said.

But as 400 people are expected to visit the area to pay their respects to victims, Bryan and other family friends take on the task of catering to those who are traveling hundreds of miles, most by buggy “from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and even from Kentucky.”

Bryan is asking for help on social media – food and funds – to cater to the incoming guests.

She is offering to pick up non-perishables and other items. She is also getting help from the Cumberland Fire Department.

In the meantime, she says the children will each be assigned a caretaker, while still living together at their home.

“Five people have gone to VCU as of this morning to be trained on how to care for the children at home with their injuries,” Bryan said.

But despite all the support, Bryan says the kids only want one thing.

“‘My life would be perfect if I had my parents,’” one of the daughters told her.

The funeral is today. The detail above that most are coming hundreds of miles by buggy from other states is clearly an error. They will not be coming by buggy.

There are actually two GoFundMe fundraisers that I’ve found. This one is to cover medical and funeral expenses, and this one is to pay off the remaining mortgage of the family’s farm. The latter was started yesterday and has already amassed over $100,000. It includes the photo below, which I must assume is of the children in hospital.

The obituary of John M. and Barbara S. Esh is here.

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    1. Ron Deitrick

      My family and I pray that you will find your way through this most difficult time. May God wrap you in his arms, give you comfort, and show you the way.! May your parents Rest In Peace while being your guardian angels!!

    2. What more could have been done?

      In light of your noting that “Most Amish buggy accidents, like this one, are caused by local drivers who are well aware that they live around Amish people,” perhaps this should drive home even more so the need for and benefits of something that makes the buggies more visible by day, dusk and night. The standard SMV emblem obviously didn’t keep it from happening. Any buggy accident is tragic and potentially preventable, but this particular type really needs to give pause to all about doing any and everything possible to prevent them.


    3. Mary Carr

      Eight Children Left Orphaned

      My heart goes out to the children. May God wrap his arm around you through this sad time.
      Take my Hand, Precious Lord.

      God Bless

      1. Andy J. Miller

        Keep all children together!

        75 years ago on the same day and within two hours five out of 7 souls were killed in one one car when hit by another car traveling at 100 MPH, leaving nine siblings without a parent almost the same age as these children are, 2years old to 17 years old. After the funeral our grandpa sent us to the 4 winds and took off for Florida. That caused a greater tragedy then the first one. 32 years later before we were all together again and that was the only time. This is so much worse the children saw what happened to mother and father and then were hurt themselves as well! What a tragedy if they were separated and didn’t see each other for 32 years! KEEP ALL CHILDREN TOGETHER AS A FAMILY.

        1. Andy J. Miller

          Parents that would take all 8 children!

          Good evening I was in IL at my brother-in-law’s funeral service.

          My brother’s daughter in law said they would take all eight of the children as they had raised nine and would gladly take 8 more!

          Any questions please call me.

          Andy Miller
          789 Mizer Street
          Lebanon, MO 65536
          Phone 417-594-3443

    4. Thomas Cooke


      When praying for this precious family, please remember to pray for the Gentleman that caused the accident. From what i understand from my brother in Farmville he is sick and highly distraught over this and is suffering greatly in his heart. Please include Mickel Bates in your prayers.

      1. Andy J. Miller


        I can see where he might be troubled but I do not see where he has an excuse after all he left the people scattered on the road and went home! The man that killed our parents never did think it was his fault, even though he was so drunk his own brother would not ride with him and was traveling 50 MPH over the speed limit and he never got so much as a speeding ticket!

    5. Andy Miller

      Home for the 8 childre.

      I wrote a letter to the grandparents and ask them not to split the children up! I have great news my Nephew Donald Wayne Chupp and his wife Mabel have raised 9 children and have 3 left at home would like to love and care for these 8 children! They live in Comberland Iowa. they are a plain people attending Glory Christian Fellowship. for more info call me Andy J. Miller 789 Mizer Street Lebanon, MO 65536 Phone 417-594-3443