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Tragedy has befallen a Mennonite community in Missouri, where a horrific accident involving a pick-up truck and a horse-drawn buggy has claimed the life of a young boy while leaving several of his family members with serious physical wounds.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the accident, which occurred Thursday morning just before 7 a.m. along a highway in St. Francois County, killed Mervin Shirk, 7.
The boy was pronounced dead at the scene by first responders.
Four of Mervin’s relatives — including his 50-year-old mother — were taken to an area hospital for treatment.
The exact nature of their injuries was unclear Friday, but according to the paper, two youths — ages 10 and 12 — were among those hurt in Thursday’s crash.
KMOV reports that the family in the buggy was headed to a nearby blueberry farm to pick blueberries at the time of the fatal wreck.
PEOPLE learns they are all members of a local Mennonite community, a reclusive religious sect that rejects church organization, military service and public office.
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According to KSDK, two teens — one 16 and the other 19 — were in the pickup truck on their way to work. Neither was injured.
Investigators are working to determine if speed played a factor in the fatal accident.
At this point, no criminal charges have been filed.
“I’ve worked this area for 15 years and to my knowledge, I’ve never known of anything this tragic, this devastating involving this community, in this area,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Corporal Juston Wheetley told KMOV.
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Clay Zimmerman, a minister with the Farmington Mennonite Church, spoke to the Post-Dispatch about Thursday’s crash.
Zimmerman said Shirk’s family belongs to the Old Order Mennonites, which travels by horse-drawn buggy and rejects certain technology, limiting the influence of the outside world.
He said the Mennonite community will come together in “a very strong brotherhood team effort” after this tragedy, helping take care of the family, preparing food and hosting people who come to town for the funeral.
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