UPDATE: More details of deadly buggy crash available

Published 5:24 pm Monday, October 18, 2021

UPDATED: More details available surrounding a buggy crash in Cumberland which killed two Farmville residents and injured their eight children.

According to a Monday press release from VSP, the crash occurred Sunday, Oct. 17, before 8 p.m. on Route 45/Cumberland Road, approximately 1.3 miles south of Route 634. 

A 2005 Toyota Tundra driven by Mickel I. Bates, 60, of Farmville, was traveling south on Route 45 when it struck the rear of an Amish horse-drawn buggy. The buggy was also traveling south along Route 45. The Toyota continued on, but Bates then returned to the scene a short time later. 

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There were a total of 10 adults and juveniles on board the buggy. 

Barbie Esh, 38, of Farmville, died at the scene. A Tuesday morning update from VSP confirmed her husband, John Z. Esh, 39, of Farmville, was flown to VCU Medical Center, where he succumbed to his injuries Monday, Oct. 18. Their eight children, ranging in age from 9 months old to 16 years of age, were all transported to nearby hospitals for treatment. Their injuries range from minor to serious. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, two of the children have been treated and released from the hospital; the remaining six are still hospitalized.

A previous release from VSP stated the horse had to be euthanized, but a correction issued by state police on Tuesday noted the horse survived its injuries sustained in the crash. The buggy was equipped with the required “slow moving vehicle” triangle placard, as well as working headlights and taillights.

Bates was not injured in the crash. Charges are pending at this stage of the investigation. 

The Virginia State Police Appomattox Division Crash Reconstruction Team and Bureau of Criminal Investigation are assisting with the ongoing crash investigation.

“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,” 1/Sgt. Eric King of  Virginia State Police Area 19, which encompasses Buckingham and Cumberland counties, said. “Local residents in the Cumberland and Buckingham county region are reminded to be on the look-out 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. 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% of all traffic deaths involving buggy drivers and passengers occur in rural areas. ODOT also reminds motorists “that horses can be unpredictable and even the most road-safe horse can spook at a fast-moving vehicle.”

The horse-drawn buggy, which is solid black, is especially difficult to see at night. According to the Virginia Driver’s Manual, a horse-drawn vehicle must display on the back of it a “slow moving vehicle” triangular placard when in use on public highways. When approaching a buggy, the DMV manual advises a motor-vehicle driver to “be prepared to adjust your speed or position when you see a vehicle with one of these signs.” 

Last week, Oct. 13, 2021, an Amish buggy was struck by a 2015 Jeep Cherokee on Route 3 in the Northern Neck’s Richmond County. Two individuals riding in the buggy were both seriously injured, and the horse had to be humanely euthanized due to the extent of its injuries. The driver of the Jeep was not injured and charged with reckless driving.