CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Va. (WRIC/WFXR) — A husband and wife killed when a truck hit their horse-drawn buggy over the weekend were laid to rest in Cumberland County on Thursday, drawing hundreds of people to the area for the double funeral.
John and Barbie Esh, in their 30s, were in an Amish buggy with their eight children on Davis Lane when police say a pickup truck hit them from behind on Sunday, Oct. 17.
The mother died at the scene while the father was flown to UVA Medical Center, where he later died.
The eight children, ranging from 9-months-old to 16-years-old, were hospitalized but survived. They are with another family now, according to family friends.
On Thursday, Oct. 22, Farmville-area roads saw heavy buggy traffic as funeral services brought hundreds of their Amish loved ones into town, some from as far away as Pennsylvania and New York. The clatter of horses hooves echoed as law enforcement escorted the buggies to and from funeral processions.
“They were just wonderful and beautiful people,” said Aundria Brown, a close friend of Barbie and John Esh. “It’s been a rough week ever since I got the knock on the door telling me what happened.”
On Thursday, Brown helped drive the Esh family loved ones to and from two different funeral services. She has known the family of 10 ever since they moved to the area about four years ago, adding that they were close friends and she also worked for them as a driver.
“It’s been very hard for the community and everyone thinks about the children,” Brown said.
According to Virginia State Police, 60-year-old Mickel Bates — the driver of the pickup truck — initially left the scene, but returned after hitting the buggy. Police say charges are pending against Bates, but the investigation is still ongoing.
Brown says people need to start paying attention and slow down near the slow-moving buggies.
“Just be looking for those flashing lights. Just be looking for those little caution signs,” she said. “I know they’re small and they’re hard to see but if you take that extra time to just do that, then you’ll see them.”
The family’s buggy did have working flashing lights and the required signage, according to Virginia State Police.
Brown says she’s been to too many Amish funerals.
“Every funeral I’ve been to with them has been to an accident,” Brown told WFXR’s sister station, WRIC. “It’s not them dying of old age, it’s because they’re getting hit and it really hurts my heart.”
“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 with Virginia State Police. “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 are becoming more popular in the Buckingham, Cumberland, Charlotte and Halifax counties, as those communities continue to grow,” he said.
A GoFundMe has been started online to help the family pay for hospital expenses and the remaining mortgage for the family farm. As of this writing, it’s raised more than $156,000.
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