Friday, July 22, 2011


We came across a horrible crash site between Pennsylvania and LuAnn's mother's house yesterday. Here again writers don't know what a self propelled sprayer is, it's not a tractor and it wouldn't pull the hat off your head for a pulling vehicle. It hauls water nicely though and whatever we choose to put in it to spray on crops.

This one is a Rogator like the one we are using and I hope ours never looks like this one.

BENTON, N.Y. — A swath of crushed and trampled soybeans and broken glass strewn across the road marked the spot where five Amish farmers died Tuesday in a horrific three-vehicle crash near here.

Sheriff's deputies have charged the driver of a car who attempted to pass a tractor and collided with a van carrying the farmers with five counts of criminally negligent homicide and with driving while intoxicated.

Steven Eldridge, 42, of Penn Yan, N.Y., also faces charges of reckless driving, unsafe passing, speed not reasonable and prudent, and failure to keep right after passing. He is being held on $125,000 cash bail or $250,000 bond.

Ten people were injured in the crash.

The farmers were passengers in a van traveling north in the town of Benton, N.Y. about 12:45 p.m. Tuesday when a large, slow-moving tractor with spray equipment attached approached, moving south at 5 to 10 mph. A car behind the tractor passed it on a curve and hit the van, sending the van into and under the tractor.

The group of 13 Amish farmers, both men and women, from Steuben County were on a "farm excursion" organized by Cornell Cooperative Extension, Yates County Sheriff Ronald Spike said. The sheriff's office identified those killed in the crash as Melvin Hershberger, 42; Sarah Miller, 47; Melvin Hostetler, 40; Anna Mary Byler, 60; and Elizabeth Mast, 46.

Autopsies were performed Wednesday in Penn Yan, Spike said.

Among the injured are van driver Lyn Oles, 41, of Greenwood, N.Y.; and farmers Martha Hostetler, 36; Enos Miller, 32; Rose Anna Miller, 31; Emery Miller, 47; Andy Byler, 60 and Evia Hershberger, 38. They have extensive injuries, the sheriff's office said.

Enos and Emery Miller have been discharged, and Oles and Hosteller are in satisfactory condition, a hospital official said this morning. Rose Anna Mille, Byler and Hersberger are in guarded condition.

The tractor's driver, Tim Labarr, 44, of Dresden, N.Y., and farmer John Mast, 47, have internal injuries. Labarr was not listed as being at the hospital this morning, while Mast is in the intensive care unit, a hospital official said.

Farmer David Miller, 51, was treated at the scene and released.

Eldridge was uninjured, according to a press release from the sheriff's office.

The Amish group had stopped at a farm south of Penn Yan to learn about new technologies for raising poultry and using greenhouses, according to Spike, and then had lunch in a Penn Yan park. They were heading to their next stop when the crash occurred.

"This was a horrific accident scene," Spike said. "I've been in this business 40 years and it's the worst I've ever seen."

Spike said he didn't know how fast Eldridge was going at the time. The road is posted for 55 mph with signs warning to slow to 45 mph because of the curve. Other signs indicate slow-moving farm vehicles may be traveling the road.

"The intersection is a no-passing zone at a curve. The driver of the car decided to pass the tractor. … The passenger van was forced to collide with and became embedded in and under the tractor," Spike said.

Joseph Zadorecky, 43, said he was mowing his lawn at the northeast corner of Pre-Emption and Loree, about 50 feet away, when the crash occurred. He said he saw the car, a red four-door, coming, and the "spreader," which he called a "monstrous vehicle," locked up its brakes and "was deafening, just screeching."

Zadorecky, who was shaking as he described the crash, said he could see people inside the van turning away from the onrushing collision.

"The spreader raised up and it just kept climbing and climbing and then rested on top of (the van)."

He said he was surprised to see three people get out of the mangled van.

"There was nothing left of the van."

Zadorecky yelled to his wife to call 911, he said, and then went to see what help he could be, later offering one of the injured an icepack for his head.

"There were moans, groans, people saying 'Help me.' Someone was screaming out, 'Oh God, oh God.'"

Spike said the first emergency responders to the scene set up a triage area.

"We had triage set up in the farm field, just bodies everywhere," he said. "I've seen a lot of fatalities, but not like this. It was just a horrific tragedy."

The Amish farmers were all from the towns of Woodhull and Jasper, N.Y., southwest of Corning, N.Y., near the Pennsylvania border, Spike said.

Identifying the victims of the crash proved difficult because, in addition the mangled condition of the crash scene, the Amish don't usually carry IDs. A Yates County deputy brought some Amish residents from the Woodhull-Jasper area to help with identification.

Spike said most of the people who were killed or injured were in the right front of the van, and that the van's roof had to be cut off to get to some of the victims. He said it took two hours to get everyone out of the mangled van.

Two coroners were at the scene.

Dozens of ambulances, firetrucks and police personnel scrambled to untangle the wreckage, and at least four helicopters removed patients from the scene, Spike said.

It was the area's second mass casualty incident in three days, following a tour bus crash that killed two people and injured 35 Sunday on Interstate 390."

Be careful out there, you can never be too careful and get caught up in a mess like this one. I wonder how the sprayer operator is doing.


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