Three Amish Children & Young Father Lose Lives In Van Rollover

A van rollover accident claimed the lives of four Amish individuals, three of them young children, in central Iowa on Friday. The group of Amish (more than one family) were on the way to Missouri to visit relatives. From kmch.com:

The Iowa State Patrol says three children and one adult were killed when the passenger van they were riding in lost control on Highway 20. They have been identified as one-year-old Marlin Borntreger, two-year-old Rebecca Borntreger, four-year-old Emma Borntreger and 22-year-old Ervin Borntreger.

The accident happened just after 6:30 am when the westbound van slid off the snow-and-ice-covered roadway and flipped in the median. Four people were ejected. No one in the van was wearing a seatbelt and none of the children were in car seats. The van came to rest in the eastbound lanes of Highway 20.

Six other young adults (most in their twenties) and three young children (all ages three or younger) also suffered injuries and were transported to various area hospitals. The accident occurred about 80 miles from their home area of Delhi, Iowa (Delaware County) so not too long after they had set out on their journey.

White Chevrolet Express passenger van
Chevrolet Express van, similar to the model in the accident

These 15-person passenger vans are frequently used by Amish taxi drivers to haul Amish families from place to place. As noted, in this case no one in the van was wearing a seatbelt, nor were car seats used. That may not have made a difference, but it might have. I’ve noticed not wearing a seatbelt is not uncommon for Amish passengers (and I have a guess as to why). At least it’s not as instinctual to put them on when getting into a car, as it is for me. I think it may in part have to do with not using them in buggies. There’s not the same ingrained habit when getting into a vehicle to go somewhere.

The other thing is, I think, a false sense of security which comes from riding in larger transport vehicles like buses and vans. I don’t think I ever wore a seatbelt when I was being shuttled around North Carolina on the wrestling or soccer teams I played on back in high school. And when traveling on long-distance coach buses today, I rarely wear one.

Having driven Amish in a 15-person van before, however, I can see where the risk comes in. Length and visibility are additional challenges, though they are pretty easy to drive for the most part. But I can see the rollover danger. In fact, an article in the Des Moines Register notes that this type of van (at least some models) is susceptible to rollovers.

Non-Amish community supports accident victims

Now the community is rallying to support the Amish victims of the crash. A non-Amish pastor of a local church and friend to the victims has started a GoFundMe account for the medical bills. From the Cedar Falls Courier:

Over the weekend, the Delhi United Methodist Church established a GoFundMe.com fundraising account to assist with medical expenses and other needs, setting the initial goal at $2,000.

That was reached within a matter of hours, so the church decided to raise goal, said the Rev. Keith Pitts.

“We are truly thankful for the outpouring of love and prayers,” he said. “It’s kind of taken on a life of its own.”

He said the initial fundraiser was intended to draw support from church members but, once it started, people from all over Iowa and the nation began chipping in. To find the online fundraiser, search the church’s name on the website.

What a sad tragedy for these families and this community. Their Amish relatives, church members and neighbors will be a big support at this time. The support from these non-Amish friends will be appreciated as well.

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    One Comment

    1. Kensi Blonde

      van roll over

      No seatbelts. No car seats. Driving in an ice storm. It could have easily claimed even more lives. It’s all well and good to believe in God but if you’re not also going to take precautions on this earth then I don’t know what to say for you. I feel bad for the children who were so young they had to rely on the adults to have common sense enough for all of them.