published Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

SUV crash into pond claims lives of infant, 3-year-old in Bledsoe County

  • photo
    On Tuesday, Eddie Wooden drove to the site of the accident on Hoffman Drive to check on the family that lost two children. “Our prayers and thoughts are out for them,” he said.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

BLEDSOE COUNTY, Tenn. — When their mother's SUV slipped into a pond Monday night, police say, a baby and a 3-year-old girl sat in the back row, strapped into car seats.

Monique H. Einwechter, 24, of Lititz, Pa., had been driving a Ford Expedition down a long driveway around 8:45 p.m. CST when she reached the pond, located on her father's property. She had four children in the car, none of them older than 3-year-old Susan.

Between the dirt driveway and the house, the road narrowed. Across the pond, the path was barely wider than Einwechter's vehicle. As she drove past, according to a Tennessee Highway Patrol report, the car tumbled off the road, flipped and spilled into the water, the SUV's roof resting on the bottom of the pond.

Einwechter escaped from the chest-high water, as did her 1-year-old and 2-year-old children. But, according to the report, she could not get to Susan or 6-week-old Emoch.

Rescuers responded to the scene, but Bledsoe County Sheriff's Office Investigator Ricky Seals said the emergency crews needed about 30 minutes to retrieve Emoch and Susan. Neither child survived.

No alcohol or drug use is suspected, and charges have not been filed, officials said.

Einwechter was injured during the crash, according to the report, and Tuesday afternoon neither she nor any other member of her family was at their home in the New Harmony community in rural eastern Bledsoe County.

The home is surrounded by dead grass, trees and the pond. It is a small, unassuming pond, about half as long as a football field. And, like the house itself, the pond is secluded -- about a quarter of a mile away from the main road, invisible to those who don't know what they are looking for.

Visitors came to the house and dropped off food Tuesday, and some described Einwechter's family as kind but quiet. They came to this secluded community to find privacy, one friend said.

One neighbor, 55-year-old Eddie Wooden, has lived in the area his entire life. But on Tuesday, he said he couldn't think of another time when someone in this county of 13,000 people had lost a baby.

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    An SUV is partially submerged in a pond in Bledsoe County on Monday. Two children were killed when the vehicle went off the road and into the pond.
    Photo by Photo: Bledsoe County Sheriff's Office

"I don't know what you'd be doing without them," said Wooden, who is also a father. "It's hard to understand."

He realized something was wrong while watching TV around 9:30 p.m. Monday, when he heard sirens screaming through Wooden Loop Road. You almost never hear those around here, he said.

On Tuesday, he drove his truck down to the site of the crash to check on Einwechter's family.

"Our prayers and thoughts are out for them," he said. "This is a good community. We'll do what we can."

Philip "Winky" Cagle, the mayor of nearby Pikeville, echoed those thoughts. He said that in a rural community like this one, tragedy sits with the residents for months. Even though Einwechter's family has not been here for generations, like so many other Bledsoe County families, many people in the community will support them.

Cagle said people in town talked about the tragedy all day Tuesday -- at work, in the courthouse, wherever. The mayor said the impact of Monday's event will be similar to the death of Kainen Boring, a Bledsoe County High School football player who died in 2011 after suffering a head injury at practice.

Then, neighbors and fellow students packed the church at his funeral, painted Boring's jersey number on their cars and made signs of support. The tributes lasted for months.

Cagle said he expects a similar response this time.

"There is not a better, finer, more moral bunch of people in the world than in Bledsoe County," he said. "I'll put them up against anybody anywhere. ... We're country folks. We're small, rural. We're a close-knit bunch."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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