LITITZ, Pa. (AP) — A Lititz-area couple is mourning the deaths of their 3-year-old daughter and 6-week-old son, who drowned a week ago in Tennessee after the SUV they were riding in with their mother went off a narrow farm lane and overturned in a pond.
Two other children of Jonathan, 26, and Monique, 24, Einwechter were rescued from the partially submerged vehicle by family members before it rolled over and flipped upside down into deeper water in a rural area in Bledsoe County, Tenn.
The accident happened just nine hours after the family had arrived in Tennessee, eager to begin a new life.
The couple had owned and operated FirstWatch Farms, an organic produce operation in Warwick Township. They last lived on Hammer Creek Road, Lititz.
Jonathan also worked in the warehouse at Denver Wholesale Foods in Ephrata. Formerly, he and his brother, Philip Einwechter, owned an organic food stand, Truax Grill, in Lititz Farmers' Market.
The brothers' father, William Einwechter, is pastor of Immanuel Free Reformed Church in Schoeneck.
The family had pulled up stakes and left for Tennessee, where they were going to manage the farm of Monique's parents. They also had plans to start a discount food business, Jonathan said.
The day they arrived in Tennessee, the Einwechters painted a new apartment they would be living in on the farm. Not wanting to sleep in the room because of the fumes, they set out after dark to stay at a home about a half-hour away.
Jonathan rode in the lead in one vehicle with two others, including a family friend, Chrissy Smithe of Terre Hill, while Monique and their four children followed in the family's 1999 Ford Explorer.
They had only just started out down the farm lane in the dark when Jonathan no longer saw the headlights of his wife's car.
Then he heard a long, unending honk.
The lane crosses the dambreast of a small, quarter-acre pond and is not much wider than a vehicle, Einwechter said.
The vehicle turned slightly to the right, causing a tire to go off the road and jerk the steering wheel out of his wife's hands. The car tumbled into the pond, he said in an interview.
What happened next was chaotic.
Einwechter said he jumped on top of the vehicle, which was on its side, partially submerged in 2 feet of water.
When his wife couldn't unbuckle herself, he said he got a rock and broke the driver's window.
His wife was now frantically trying to unbuckle their four children. She got 18-month-old Titus unbuckled and handed him to her husband through the broken window.
His wife's 16-year-old brother, Christian R. Samuel Hoffman, was able to open the rear window and pull Jon David, 2, out.
Then, to everyone's horror, the car rolled in what Jonathan described as slow motion onto its roof in deeper water. Only the wheels and undercarriage were exposed.
He, along with his father-in-law and brother-in-law dove frantically in the dark into the icy water, trying to reach the two remaining children and their mother in the now-submerged car.
"There were prayers, screams and shouts from everyone," Einwechter recalled. "The water was so cold, though. We could only be under it for a few seconds before our limbs began to lose responsiveness and we had to get out."
Even after the car filled with water, Monique tried to free her two remaining children, her husband said.
"Once this was obviously impossible, she tried escaping herself, only to keep bumping into things.
"At this point she began breathing in water, felt her limbs paralyze, and realizing she was dying, prayed for peace before going unconscious," her husband said.
Joe Hoffman was able to pull his daughter out of the car and dragged her unconscious after being under water for an estimated five minutes.
She was revived by her brother, hospitalized in intensive care, but released on Friday.
"She is still recovering but doing well," her husband said Monday.
In an e-mail to the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era, Einwechter talks of his agonizing but conscious decision to quit diving for his two remaining children to concentrate on his still-alive wife.
"Do I try going back for the children in what would be almost certainly a futile attempt or do I try to save Monique who's at least half alive, laying half in the water and half on the muddy bank?" he said.
"My first-aid training came back to me and I made the hard decision to focus on the one I could probably help and let my precious children in Christ's hands."
A memorial service for the two lost children, Enoch and Elise, was held in Dayton, Tenn., on Saturday that drew about 200 people, many of them first responders and strangers to the family who had come into their midst less than a week earlier.
There, the grieving and grateful Einwechters told the assemblage that it was God who called their children home, not a freak accident, according to coverage in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
"God is just," Monique told the assemblage. "I cannot make up my idea of who God is. I cannot determine what is good. That is His job, not mine."
On Monday, her husband also stressed that "our faith is strong. Some days it's easy to question why didn't we do a hundred things differently that our children would still be here with us. But we're sticking to our faith in the Lord. We're just trusting Him.
"As painful as this is, we're glad God gave us our children for the short time they lived.
"I like to think we got out of the vehicle everyone we could and Jesus got the rest out to go home with Him."
A viewing and funeral service for Enoch and Elise Einwechter will be held on Thursday at Ephrata Church of the Brethren. The viewing will be at 4 p.m. and the funeral service at 6 p.m.
Stradling Funeral Home in Ephrata is handling arrangements.
The children will be buried at a family plot in Mercersburg.
There is an Enoch and Elise Einwechter Memorial page on Facebook.
A Jonathan Einwechter Family Charity Fund has been created to help the family defray the costs of the funeral, purchase of a new vehicle and lost wages.
Between the website and "people handing us checks," more than $20,000 has been raised, Jonathan said.
He said he has been stunned by the outpouring of love, prayers and gifts to his family from strangers both in Tennessee and from around the world.
"It makes me feel overwhelmed and unworthy of that," he said.
Information from: Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era , http://lancasteronline.com