Truck driver in deadly buggy crash arrested

Published 2:04 pm Thursday, April 28, 2022

The driver of the truck involved in a deadly Amish buggy crash last October in Cumberland County was arrested Tuesday, April 26, on three charges, including two for involuntary manslaughter.

On the evening of Oct. 17, 2021, a 2005 Toyota Tundra driven by Mickel Irvin Bates, 60, of Farmville, struck the rear end of an Amish horse-drawn buggy on Route 45/Cumberland Road. Bates originally continued on down the road, but he returned to the scene a short time later.

The crash resulted in the death of John Esh, 39, and his wife, Barbie Esh, 38, both of whom were Farmville residents. Also in the buggy were their eight children, ranging in age from 9 months to 16 years, who were all transported to nearby hospitals for treatment of injuries that ranged from minor to serious.

Powhatan County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Cerullo said that a Cumberland grand jury met April 26 and heard evidence on the crash.

“They issued three indictments,” he said. “Two indictments are for involuntary manslaughter, for the husband and wife that died on the buggy, and one charge of reckless driving.”

Cumberland County Sheriff Darrell Hodges confirmed that Virginia State Police (VSP) made the arrest, and Bates was transported to Prince Edward County for processing.

The Virginia Judiciary Online Case Information System listed Bates’ status as “bail,” and Cerullo noted this means he is out on bail and not being held over for arraignment.

Bates’ pre-trial arraignment in Cumberland Circuit Court is set for Monday, May 2, at 9 a.m., at which time his attorney arrangements will be discussed.

“And then we’ll set it for trial, and we anticipate going to trial,” Cerullo said.

The timing of the trial is still to be determined.

“A lot of that will depend on the court’s schedule as well as the defense counsel’s schedule, but I would anticipate a trial probably within 90 days, something along that line,” Cerullo said.

VSP has been investigating this case instead of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and the Powhatan County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office has been involved with the charges due to a conflict that Cerullo explained.

“(Mr. Bates’) son is a Cumberland sheriff’s deputy, so it was felt that it would probably be inappropriate for the sheriff’s department or the (Cumberland) commonwealth’s attorney to make the charging decisions because it could potentially be claim of bias,” Cerullo said.