Deadly head-on car crash sends Houston Jewish community into shock

A head-on car crash that left both parents dead, and two of their three children paralyzed from the waist down, has united Houston’s Jewish community in shock, horror and grief.

Catastrophe struck July 2 when the Berry family was driving home from a vacation in Colorado. Investigators say a car veered into their lane, causing a head-on collision that instantly killed the parents, Josh and Robin Berry, 41 and 40.

Two of the children in the back seat, Peter, 9, and Aaron, 8, suffered severe spinal injuries and are paralyzed from the waist down. One child, Willa, 6, escaped with broken bones and was able to speak when paramedics arrived. A 28-year-old woman in the passenger seat of the other car, Colleen Doyle, also died.

“The tragedy is unprecedented in our synagogue, in our community,” said Rabbi Brian Strauss of Congregation Beth Yushurun, the Conservative synagogue where the Berrys were members. “In Houston, the Berrys were beloved.”

Robin had worked as family life coordinator at Beth Yushurun, and Josh had participated in men’s club programs. The Berry children attend Jewish day schools.

Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub comforts Peter Berry at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, with his wife, Laurie, and Aaron Berry in the background. photo/jewish herald-voice of houston

“It’s definitely going to affect our community for years to come,” family friend Allen Deutsch said. “[Josh and Robin] were able to somehow spend time [volunteering] at the rodeo and being at the synagogue and really giving of themselves to the community. Yet they had such a close bond with their kids. It’s just heartbreaking and a nightmare.”

The Jewish community’s grief was joined by a burst of activity to make sure the Berry children are well cared for. Friends established a trust fund for the kids, local businesses held fundraisers, TV stars have sent their condolences and professional athletes have stopped by the children’s hospital beds.

Baseball all-star Hunter Pence of the Houston Astros showed up, as did Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (who is Jewish) and Kyle Lowry of the Houston Rockets — each trying to boost the children’s spirits with a gift and light-hearted banter. Three players from Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo visited, too. An upcoming Dynamo game, already designated to celebrate Jewish Heritage night, will donate $10 of every ticket sold to the Berry trust.

Reality TV stars Kourtney Kardashian and Brooke Burke expressed their condolences online, and Kardashian encouraged followers to donate to the trust fund.

As of July 19, more than $46,000 had been raised through dog washes, lemonade stands and ice cream sales organized by local children and their parents, according to Jewish Herald-Voice reporter Michael Duke, who has been covering the story. That amount does not include donations to the trust fund or fundraisers by local businesses.

“The response has given a glimmer of hope,” Strauss said. “If they walk again, it will be with the help of the community.”

The family was traveling along U.S. 285 in Fort Stockton, Texas, when a car veered into their lane, investigators said. The couple died at the scene; their children were all rushed to Covenant Hospital in Lubbock, Texas. Investigators said the driver of the other car, Michael Doyle, 31, of Phoenix, was critically injured; his passenger, Colleen Doyle, was killed.

While the community mobilized for the children, friends and family mourned the Berry parents. More than 1,200 mourners turned out for their funerals, and area Jews have organized Shabbat candle lightings in their memory and shifts to say Kaddish and pray for the surviving children.

An uncle of the Berry children, Adam Berry, was preparing to move Peter and Aaron to Chicago for at least two months to receive specialized treatment. Another uncle, Matt Berry, has become their legal guardian.

At least two funds have been set up to help support the children. Visit or