Nine Die In Crash, Including 7 Amish From Burke’s Garden, VA. 2-Year-Old Boy Only Survivor

Some very sad news following a road accident in Wisconsin Friday. A vanload of Amish people was struck by a semi in Clark County (west-central Wisconsin) while on a trip to visit family. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

As many as 7 of the 9 people killed in the second-deadliest crash in state history Friday are members of an Amish community from Burke’s Garden in Tazewell County, Virginia, who were believed to be traveling to visit family in Wisconsin.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office has not released the names of those killed in the crash. But according to those close to the families, the victims include Orlah Schrock, his wife Ellen, six-month-old daughter Judy Rose, and Orlah’s sister, Delilah Schrock.

Image of the March 8th crash: FOX 9

Two other families, also Amish, are believed to be impacted, though they have requested privacy. The driver of the tanker has also not been identified.

The Schrocks’ two-year-old boy was the only survivor.

These images show how bad the accident was, and how remarkable that at least the little boy survived.

Van crash image via the Go Fund Me page

Another report describes what is believed to have happened:

According to details released by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, a preliminary report indicated the semi and the passenger van collided at the intersection of the two highways.

The semi was eastbound on State 95, approaching the intersection, when the van, which was northbound on County J, entered the intersection and was struck by the semi.

Aerial footage from Twin Cities television station WCCO showed the semi and its trailer ended up off the road, with the trailer on its side. The van, also on its side on the shoulder of the road, appeared to have been charred by fire.

The Burke’s Garden Community

Longer-time readers might recall that the Burke’s Garden Amish community has been featured here numerous times, dating to a post by reader Jerry introducing the settlement in 2015.

Image: Jerry

It’s a unique community in some sense due to its unusual location in a nearly fully-enclosed valley known colloquially as “God’s Thumbprint”.

Photo by zeesstoff/flickr

I’ve visited the small, isolated settlement myself on several occasions. The latest estimates have the Amish population here at just 95 people. I can only imagine that this many lost in a community of such a size will hit hard.

Van Accidents & the Amish

A lot of attention is rightfully paid to the issue of buggy safety. At the same time, van crashes claiming Amish lives happen as well.

I took a look back at some of the van accidents we’ve covered here: a year ago, four Amish died in a van rollover in Iowa; in 2014, four Amish lost their lives in a van wreck in PA; in 2011, five Amish died when their van was struck by an intoxicated driver, leaving behind 12 orphaned children.

Additionally, Amish Cook columnist Gloria Yoder wrote about her own serious, though non-fatal, van accident in a 2020 column. There have been of course more than just these.

For that matter, some Amish people (eg, construction workers on a daily commute; market stand owners, etc.) may spend more time traveling in vans than they do in buggies. As occupations have changed, that is just the nature of things in some communities now. This accident in Wisconsin wasn’t a work commute though, but a rarer long-distance trip. 

Image: Don Burke

I’ve both driven Amish in these 15-person passenger vans, and ridden in them as a passenger, and I can’t say that I’m all that comfortable in either position.

Still, this is the most efficient manner of longer-distance travel for large Amish families or groups of workers, and the reality is that these accidents will happen.

Prayers and condolences to the families who lost loved ones. A GoFundMe has been set up to benefit the families here.

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    1. Bert


      when im in wisconsin there is a word that i use on occasion if im not feeling weel or think im to tired to make the trip that word is no

      at times it seems that the drivers like i am have no sense as to know when to say no to the trip request
      when its very foggy out i wont drive even a short distance trip or if theres snow predicted for the southern branch of the family which is in the hill country to the south

    2. K.D.

      Wisconsin van crash

      I agree with Bert. One has to know one’s limits and not be
      ashamed or feel guilty in saying “No” once in awhile. I can’t
      help but wonder if this was an accident or an act of stupidity?
      Just saying . . .

      1. Bert


        like i said above it could be both my heart goes out to the amish in that area anyway i know my limitations