Amish sadly say goodbye to 5 children Funeral in Ohio after car accident

May 17, 1993|By New York Times News Service

FREDERICKSBURG, Ohio -- A river of black horse-drawn buggies flowed over the hills near here in a funeral procession that stretched to another time -- when America was younger and the automobile for most was only a dream or a nightmare.

Five Amish children, who were killed last week when they were struck by a car on a country road, were buried yesterday in one of the largest gatherings of the Amish in recent years.

All weekend, hundreds of Amish people poured into this town of 500 residents some 60 miles south of Cleveland, where there are almost as many hitching posts as parking spaces. Some Amish came from as far away as Oklahoma and Colorado, arriving by car or van; they had hired non-Amish men to drive them because driving cars is prohibited by their religion.

As the funerals began, about 15 vans and cars were parked on one side of a field near the white barn where the main service was held. On the other side were at least 100 buggies, their horses tied nearby, with several groups of young Amish men and boys attending to them.

This is the heart of Ohio Amish country, but even Amishmen like Eli Mast, 49, said he rarely had seen so many brethren in one place.

On Saturday, Mr. Mast and his family waited in a line for more than 30 minutes before they could get inside the farmhouse where the children's wake was held.

"I can't remember a bigger gathering," he said. "This has shocked us all. We are a very close community but this has brought us closer together."

As he talked, several cars went past and he pulled his small son farther onto the shoulder. On the other side of the road was the place where the five children were killed.

"It was God's will," Mr. Mast said of the accident. "We accept that."

The children, 2 to 14 years old, were killed, and three others were seriously injured as they walked home after a birthday party. They were struck by an out-of-control car driven by an unlicensed driver identified by police as Eric Bache, 18.

Mr. Bache was charged with five felony counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and was in the Wayne County Jail on a $25,000 bond.

Authorities said Mr. Bache has so far expressed no remorse. His major concern was whether he would have to spend a night in jail, said a Ohio Highway Patrol spokesman, Lt. Bob Maxey.

Henry Burkholder, 65, of Mount Hope, Ohio, said, "We could take it a lot easier if he would feel sorry."

"It's a little harder to forgive since he doesn't seem upset," he said. "But we have to forgive him. And we will."

Mr. Burkholder climbed into his buggy, snapped the reins and rode off, the clip-clop of his horse quickly drowned out by a passing car. The service for four of the children, three of them from the same family, was held in a white barn, a quarter-mile from the scene of the accident. The service was conducted in German. The men sat on one side, the woman on another. Almost all were dressed in their most sober clothes "to show their sadness," said Daniel Mast, 19.

"But you can see it in their faces, too," he said.

Dan Miller, an Amishman, said he counted more than 1,600 people at the service.

In Fredericksburg, most residents are non-Amish -- what the Amish call English -- like Loran Weaver, who has lived in the area for more than 30 years. "But we've all felt it," she said of the accident. "Amish or English, it hurts us all."

Teacher Ann Bowers said businesses in town were collecting money for the stricken families.

"The coffee cans are filling up fast," she said.

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