Kerber family neighbors try to comprehend disastrous accidentby Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
JORDAN, Minn. — Authorities in Kansas continue to investigate an accident Sunday that killed five members of a Minnesota family, and injured six other members of the family. Also injured were seven people who were riding in the family's motor home.
The Kerber family is well-known to their neighbors in the small town of Jordan, southwest of Minneapolis.
John and Mary Jo Marks live just outside of Jordan, on a well-manicured hobby farm with horses and cocker spaniels. The Kerber kids, all twelve of them, have been frequent visitors over the years.
"See all this land out here — they picked up sticks off it, we made hay off of it, we did everything. They worked for me...Tom, Russ..." John Marks said.
The Marks are horse people, and the Kerbers are dirt bike racing people. Mary Jo says she'd never be caught riding a dirt bike, but she understood why the family patriarch, Glen Kerber, a mechanic and motocross fan, wanted what she calls a "toter-home" — a converted box truck that has space for living and space for bikes.
"They'll usually have bathrooms and flat-screen TV and everything to make you comfortable on the road, and the back was reserved for all the equipment," she said. "They had twelve children, and all the boys were into racing, and they did everything as a family."
Most of the family and several friends were in the vehicle Sunday in Kansas when it hit a guardrail and drove off a bridge. The family was returning from a motocross event in Texas when the crash occurred.
Neighbors like the Marks' are trying to comprehend what's happened.
"The phone has been ringing off the hook with people wanting to help," Mary Jo Marks said. "But it's often like that to begin with; who's going to stick around for the long haul, you know?"
One of the bonds between the Marks' and the Kerbers is education. The Kerber children were home-schooled by their mother, Pauline, who was critically injured in the crash. She stopped home schooling after her husband, Glen, died. John Marks, a retired public school teacher, couldn't resist helping the kids.
Marks made a deal with Jessica. He offered her a quarter for every "A" she earned, and two quarters for an "A" in math.
"She always had to figure out the money herself. And I know she got it figured out because I had given her a dollar, and I said 'Now, how much do you owe me?'" Marks said.
"The day before they went on the trip, they were getting ready to go, and Jessica came and gave me three quarters. And I gave them back to her and gave her a dollar and said here, just go and have fun."
Jessica was ten. She died Sunday when the rig, driven by her 17-year-old brother Adam, went off the road in Kansas. Adam was critically injured.
In addition to Jessica, Tom Kerber and his wife Melissa were killed; also James, 12; Joy, 14. Joy's twin sister, Sarah, was injured, as well as Tim, 15; Nick, 8; and Hannah, 5.
Hometown Bank in Jordan has set up a memorial fund, and members of the motocross community are planning a fundraiser in April.