Early Friday Morning on March 26, 2010, John, Sadie, and four of their children, Leroy, Rose, Anna, and Rachel loaded into their family van to travel from their home in Marrowbone, Kentucky to a friend's wedding in Iowa. Also accompanying were Leroy's wife, Naomi, and three of their children, Rachel's fiance, Joel, and a family friend, Ashley. Just the night before the family had attended their church, Marrowbone Christian Brotherhood, where they told their friends of their trip and asked God to be with them. God was undoubtedly with this family, but his plans were different from what anyone had envisioned.
At 5:30 AM, the family was traveling on Interstate 65 in south central Kentucky when a tractor-trailer truck, loaded with heavy brake drums, veered off the highway, crossed over the medial strip, burst through a row of cable barriers, and struck their van head-on. As traffic screeched to a halt all around them, the truck continued sliding across the road where it collided with a rock wall, and burst into flames.
One of the first to respond to the scene, another truck driver, rushed to the Esh's van where he rescued two survivors, Leroy and Naomi's boys, Johnny and Josiah. The rest had already died. As rescue workers arrived at the scene, they cut off and removed the top of the 15-passenger van, only to confirm what was already known.
Hearing rumors of a fatal accident which involved a van and a Mennonite family, the Esh's pastor, Leroy Kauffman, rushed down Interstate 65 to the scene of the accident. He took two deacons of Marrowbone Christian Brotherhood with him. After making his way down the emergency strip, past miles of backed up traffic and police barricades, he accompanied the wrecked van, still holding its passengers, off the highway and identified each of the bodies.
Later that day, the Governor of Kentucky issued a statement giving his condolences and expressing his concern over the situation. In his own words, "Our entire state grieves with the community and all the families will remain in our thoughts and prayers."
Both the Kentucky House of Representatives and State Senate observed a moment of silence for the deceased. Senate President David Williams knew the family very well, and spoke of them to the Senate chamber, saying, “They were wonderful, wonderful people.”
Four days later, an estimated 3,500 people gathered from all over the country to celebrate the lives of the Eshes at their funeral. During this time, their small town of Marrowbone reached a population increase of over 100 times its normal size.