Mother & father killed, 8 children injured in horse-drawn buggy crash

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 10:31 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 19, 2021 at 5:36 PM EDT
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CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - A mother and father are now dead and their eight children injured following a horse-drawn buggy crash in Cumberland Sunday night, according to Virginia State Police.

The crash happened at 8 p.m. on Route 45 near Davis Lane when a 2005 Toyota Tundra struck a horse-drawn buggy traveling southbound along Route 45. The buggy was also traveling southbound.

Police said the driver of the Toyota, identified as 60-year-old Mickel Bates, of Farmville, drove on at first but then returned to the scene a short time later.

1st Sgt. Eric King of Virginia State Police Area 19 says Bates returned to the scene in a different vehicle and is cooperating with the investigation.

Barbie Esh, 38, of Farmville, died at the scene. Her husband, John Esh, 39, died from his injuries Monday at VCU Medical Center.

Their eight children, who range in age 9-months to 16 years old, were all taken to nearby hospitals for injuries ranging from minor to serious. On Tuesday, VSP says that two of the children were released from the hospital.

Sgt. King says there’s no indication at this time that alcohol was involved in the crash, adding that the county’s Amish population, along with the volume of horse-buggies on the roads, is growing.

“They’re traveling between five and 8 miles per hour, and you’re going to encounter them really quick and so, it’s very important that you not be distracted.”

Cumberland County resident, Caroline Johnson, has family living on Route 45, so she’s on the road frequently. She says she sees about two to three carriages a week - mostly on Sundays.

“If you’re doing 50 or 60 miles per hour, and you run around a corner, you’re going to run up on them, and it’s hard to stop,” she said.

She stopped by the crash site on Tuesday morning, viewing the wheel marks in the grass and blood on the asphalt.

“It makes me so sad for the family, for the children. My, God. No mother, no father. So sad,” she said.

Wheel marks in the grassy area near the location where Sunday's buggy crash took place in...
Wheel marks in the grassy area near the location where Sunday's buggy crash took place in Cumberland County(wwbt/nbc12)

It was originally reported that the horse was euthanized, however, the horse survived its injuries from the crash, according to state police.

Troopers said the buggy did have the required “Slow Moving Vehicle” triangle placard, and working headlights and taillights.

The driver of the Toyota was not injured. Police said charges are pending until after the case goes to the Cumberland Commonwealth’s Attorney.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to this family and their Amish community, which is suffering yet another tragic loss due to a fatal traffic crash,” said Sgt. Eric King. “Local residents in the Cumberland and Buckingham county region are reminded to be on the lookout for Amish horse-drawn buggies traveling on our highways. Our winding rural roads have blind curves, so we must all comply with posted speed limits and share the road safely and responsibly.”

Amish buggies are legal on Virginia highways and becoming more common across Buckingham, Cumberland, Charlotte and Halifax counties the the communities continue to grow.

“According to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), Amish buggies travel at speeds of around five to eight miles per hour. Statistics show that more than 65 percent of all traffic deaths involving buggy drivers and passengers occur in rural areas,” a release said.

Last week, there was another buggy involved in a crash in Richmond County. The two people inside the buggy were seriously injured.

An Esh family friend is currently collecting food and donations for the rest of the family, while another family friend has set up a crowdfunding page.

In addition, the funeral for the family will be held on Thursday, which is expected to bring a large volume of buggy traffic to the area. Multiple municipalities, including the Toga Volunteer Fire Department, have posted an advisory. Virginia State Police also shared the message:

Traffic Safety Alert for those traveling through #Cumberland County…

Posted by Virginia State Police on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The alert reads:

“Heavy Buggy Traffic through Thursday traveling to Cumberland County due to Sunday evenings fatal buggy accident on Va. 45. Heaviest traffic will be between Salem Church Road and John Randolph Road close to old Mitchell’s store in Cumberland. Amish buggies from surrounding counties will be traveling to the area. Amish families from as far as Pennsylvania and New York will be attending the funeral and assisting the family involved. Cumberland officials are expecting over 400 participants. Buggies from Buckingham will be traveling to the area via U.S. 15 & 60, Ca Ira Rd. to Salem Church Rd. Plank Rd., School Rd. and Stage Coach Rd.

Be alert for Amish horse and buggies this Tuesday morning through at least Thursday evening. Don’t pass until it’s safe to do so with a clear view around them. Preferably a passing zone. Don’t hog or tailgate, rev your engine or blow your horns when passing.

Buggies are going to look like or similar to the ones below. They have bright LED lights and a reflective triangle on the back. Many here in Buckingham will also have reflective tape on the buggy and a reflective harness on the horse. And, some have been seen with a flashing amber light as well. Please be cautious and mindful when traveling.”

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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