Four Amish Killed in PA Van Wreck

From the AP:

Four members of an Amish family died after their hired van was struck by a cement truck as they traveled home from a funeral in central Pennsylvania.

The York County coroner’s office said the fourth victim, Elizabeth Esh, 22, was pronounced dead Tuesday, a day after she delivered a stillborn boy.

Her relatives, brothers Emmanuel Esh, 73, and Melvin Esh, 66, were pronounced dead at the scene of the wreck Monday afternoon in rural southeastern York County.

State police said the victims were passengers in a van, operated by 49-year-old Connie Lally, that turned into the path of a concrete truck driven by John Ehrhart, 60. The truck then struck a third vehicle, a sedan.

Tragic accidents involving Amish buggies make headlines all the time. But given their increasingly mobile jobs–not to mention kinship ties in distant communities–some Amish spend more time in cars than in carriages.

This of course isn’t the first fatal van accident involving Amish. Others come to mind. You might recall the DUI van accident which took five Amish lives in New York (and ended with twelve orphaned children being adopted by relatives).

Something similar to that happened in the 1980s in central Indiana. I remember another, during a summer I spent in northern Indiana. Amish construction workers died on their morning commute after being rear-ended by a semi.

Today’s Amish spend a lot of time in these 15-passenger people movers. They value a good, reliable driver–be it for daily work hauling, or for semi-regular trips to family and out-of-community events.

But even with the best hands on the wheel, no one gets an ironclad guarantee they’ll make it home. So just another reminder to drive safe folks. Or as my dad used to say, keep it between the ditches.

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    29 Comments

    1. Allison

      This is so awful and sad! I’ll be praying for everyone’s families. May God be with them.

    2. Kevin L.

      How very sad and tragic. I willl keep them and their families in my paryers.

    3. Sad for all concerned

      Hi Erik,

      I have a friend who was involved in an accident. The Amish guy who survived left a young wife and children. Another Amish man was only slightly injured. Everyone was tragically affected. The guy driving the motorized vehicle is not yet back to work with regularity and finds it nearly impossible to drive when it is foggy outside.

      I don’t know how many of you have walked somewhere in the dark or ridden a bicycle in the dark. We all tend to ride where it is easiest which is not off the road or on the shoulder. We expect to “move over” when we see or hear something coming. On the sad morning in question the Amish guys didn’t see or hear anything in the fog and rain, so they didn’t move to the side. They did not have on reflective gear. The “English” guy didn’t see them and the tragic chain of events was set into motion.

      1. That is hard. Reflective vests seem to be more common among Amish in these larger settlements. Some vehicles don’t make the warning noise that you’d expect either (hybrids are a culprit here) or other noises prevent them being heard. In these types of accidents you wonder what would happen if one or two factors had been different. As you said a tragic chain of events.

    4. Margaret

      Accidents like this are always so sad. Praying for the families….

      And, Erik, my grandpa said that same thing about “keeping it between the ditches.” Sweet memories….

      1. Short but sweet advice! Of course, nothing is fully in our control…

    5. Linda

      Esh accident, Jitney

      My heart goes out to these Esh families.

      If they were traveling west in the afternoon, I have to wonder if the glare of the sun had anything to do with the crash.

      One article mentions that the Amish “often hire “jitneys” driven by non-Amish for longer trips.” The word “jitney” is not familiar to me in my part of the country.

      http://bigstory.ap.org/article/25619ba7588f45809a92b9b96af24d27/4-amish-relatives-die-van-crash-after-funeral

      1. Linda

        No jitney in update

        Oops, I should have double checked. Evidently the article was updated and the word “jitney” deleted. The article now matches the link Erik gave.

        1. What's a jitney?

          I hadn’t heard it either but when I saw jitney I thought it might be a regional term. Merriam Webster gives one definition: an unlicensed taxicab.

          Wikipedia:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Share_taxi#Jitney

          Jitney is a North American English term that originally referred to a vehicle for hire intermediate between a taxi and a bus.[42] They are generally small-capacity vehicles that follow a rough service route, but can go slightly out of their way to pick up and drop off passengers. In many US cities (e.g. Pittsburgh and Detroit), the term jitney refers to an unlicensed taxi cab.

          1. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

            I’ve never heard that term before. Mind you, in the Toronto-to-Niagara-Falls corridor, where I live, most taxis are licensed and fairly well regulated.

            You learn something new everyday. You’re Dad seems like my Dad in a lot of ways, seems like they both had a sense of humour, sometimes my Dad’s was very dry, I mean, if something was going bad, he insisted on plowing through with a defiant “whateve’ah”

      2. I was just in Lancaster a few days ago and someone that lives south of New Holland (and knew the family involved) told me that it WAS a case of the sun’s glare blinding the driver.

    6. Al in Ky

      As others have said, this is sad and tragic news. It brought to mind the tragic accident at Munfordville, Ky., where ten persons from an Amish Mennonite community at Marrowbone, Ky., were killed in a van/semi accident in 2010. Several were from the John Esh extended family (formerly New Order Amish) and I’m wondering if they may have been somehow related to these Eshes in Va., although I know Esh is a common name among Amish and Mennonites.

    7. James Beltz

      Esh Family

      I remember the ESH family of Kentucky you were killed a few years back when a semi truck came across the interstate and hit them head on. This this family had good singing voices and I love their CDs. Kind of strange how the name is the same as the other family.

    8. Don Curtis

      Taxi Drivers for the Amish

      I read this post to my son, Mark, who is Amish. He said that he doesn’t use taxi drivers that much. (After all, he has me. I may be almost 92 but I still drive.) Anyway, Mark says that it always amazes him how the Amish can just climb on a van and promptly all of them doze off. Mark says that it’s very hard for him to doze off and not pay attention to the road and the driver’s driving. Just recently Mark was on a trip to New York state. Their van driver revealed that he had worked a full day on his job. After, work he had driven with his brother to a Cincinnati Red’s game. A three hour drive from us. He got home from the game around 1:00 AM and was supposed to start picking up the Amish at 3:00 AM for the ten hour trip. Needless to say, when Mark heard that he said he never took his eyes off of the driver. Who can relax when your driver is so fatigued? Mark thought it was very inconsiderate, irresponsible, and just plain dangerous on the part of this driver. He feels badly about this accident as do I. Very sad.

      1. This is just what would worry me riding in these vans. I used to ride in them fairly often when I played sports in high school. I don’t think our coaches were driving us on two hours sleep though…that is just an all around bad decision.

        I don’t think we always wore seatbelts in these vans either, they kind of have a mini-bus feel to them. Have never really felt safe in them. However they are probably the most sensible and economical form of transport for groups of Amish going beyond buggy distance.

    9. Juanita Cook

      This is a very sad accident for all. Prayers for the family.

    10. I am so very, very sorry and will pray for the family and friends and community of these precious souls.

    11. Anne

      A nightmare!

      This is the sort of thing that keeps me awake at night. When Ed lived in Virginia, his neighbor was working with his (Ed’s) horse, who was quite spirited. The horse got away from him, ran down the (long) driveway and onto the highway. It was hit head-on by an oncoming car moments later. I was very upset by this accident, as the people in the car were traumatized, and the horse needlessly killed. But these accidents happen, and seems to me, the Amish are prone to them in our rush about age. I’m so very sorry for this family and will pray for them.

    12. Alice Mary

      Grieving

      What a terrible tragedy for all. They are, and will be, in my thoughts & prayers for a long, long time.

      This time of year, with the change back to Standard Time, and before there’s (reflective) snow on the ground, it can be TERRIBLY dark outside when so many of us are on the road! Even here in our library parking lot, it seems as though the black asphalt just “eats up” the light from the few light poles there are.

      A teenager out this way was killed in the past week, in the dark, hit by a car while he rode his skateboard along the side of the road. Again, the driver didn’t see him.

      As far as the word “jitney” goes, we hear it a lot in the “Chicagoland” area, as jitney cabs are common in the inner city (not so much in most suburbs).

      Please, let’s all be especially vigilant when driving in the dark this winter, and slow down when possible. Keep your windshield clean (and your glasses!). Scan your eyes from side to side as you drive…and if you’re walking, wear light colored or reflective clothing.

      Alice Mary

      1. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

        I agree with this, and I am a pedestrian. For many of us sidewalk folk in the English world I would also suggest taking out the earphones when a strolling, being in the zone can kill or cause injury, even if your going by a building and there is a car coming in the dark.

    13. Just spoke with a friend in Lancaster County. Apparently the brothers who died were on the way back from their sister’s funeral. The week before, another sibling had died. So 4 siblings died within about a week.

      Apparently there was a wedding yesterday I believe he said down in that area. His sister went and said it was a sad wedding. He said that things like this seem to happen during wedding season.

      1. Linda

        Esh cousins

        It was actually a sister-in-law, instead of a sister, but yes, that family has had a lot of deaths recently.

        Believe it or not, the two Esh brothers that died in this 2014 accident were first cousins to John Esh of Kentucky that died in the 2010 accident, according to the information I received.

        1. Thanks for clarifying Linda. An “in-law” got lost in the telling.

          That Esh family has certainly had their share of heartache.

        2. James Beltz

          This family has had a lot of tragic loss

    14. Caroline Hatley

      Prayers go out to the Esh family. Such a tragic accident.

    15. Tom Geist

      English Drivers...

      There are some really good English drivers for the Amish on the road. Some do it for the money some out of care and love of the Amish they drive for.

      Having said that, I have heard nightmares about some English drivers.

      1) Per one of the Amish papers, back a few months ago in Granger Mn an Amish driver with a load of people was stopped for a broken tail light. Turns out the guy had no current drivers license and they found drug material with him.

      2) An English driver got so few up with the people he was hauling (because they were telling him he was drifting all over the road, that he YELLED at them that he was going to pull over to the side of the road and THEY could drive!!! (what a joy of a person to be around)

      3) This weeks Budget Amish newspaper had a scribe say about a recent trip…”We were thankful for a safe trip, although we felt shaken till we got home. Our driver did not have steady driving. We never hit the ceiling, although we never knew which way we’d fly next. That may sound bad but it felt bad too.”

      4) One driver was so tired that she would sometimes drive the speed limit…and next she was driving 35mph. The folks in the van kept saying they should stop and rest for awhile but she wouldn’t do it, and stopped talking to them all together.

      I’ve told a number of the Amish that I know why they are so close to God, because they have to call on Him when they ride with the English at times. =)

      Tom in Lincoln, Ne
      LincNebr@hotmail.com

      1. Mark - Holmes Co.

        Fortunately experiences like that are rare! Drivers like that find themselves getting less and less calls. We once had a driver who yelled & swore at a vehicle that cut him off in the Walmart parking lot. We were so embarrassed to be sitting in his van while he ranted out the window at the poor lady who kept trying to apologize then he later asked why it got so quiet for the rest of the drive home. Another one has a wireless phone thing in his ear and keeps having awkward conversations with his wife and buddies and we never know if he is talking to them or us, but he’s a safe driver in every other way.
        I’m guessing Amish people could tell about as many stories about drivers as drivers could tell about Amish!

    16. Rita

      This accident happened a few miles down the road from our home. Our Amish school was closed today, I’m assuming for the funerals. Erik, you mentioned the reflective gear – a couple weeks ago while driving home from work, I saw some people, looked like construction workers, walking along the road in the distance. As I got closer, saw that it was three Amish children, two boys and a girl, wearing reflective vests as they walked home from school. That was a first for me! I was glad to see it. With our curves and hills, trees, shadows and brush, people and animals are hard to see on the sides of the road.

      1. Tom Geist

        Thanks for the first hand knowledge Rita. If you hear much more please let us know what is going on.

        That is good news that the kids are wearing those reflective vests. Accidents are still going to happen but this is a positive prevention of them. It’s sad when anyone gets hit while walking/biking/in a buggy, but sadder when they are so young.

        I just have to remember that god has a plan.

        Tom in Lincoln