Sadly, after a calm period of some weeks as far as buggy accidents, two fatal crashes occurred on back-to-back days, in Michigan and Ohio. In the first, a 39-year-old Amish mother was killed in Branch County, Michigan when the horse was “spooked” by an oncoming vehicle:
ALGANSEE TOWNSHIP, MI (WTVB) – A Reading, Michigan woman was killed and six other family members were injured Friday morning in a Branch County crash involving their buggy and a pickup truck.
The Branch County Sheriff’s Department said hours after the crash that 39-year-old Barbara Jo Schwartz died from her injuries after being taken to Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne by Steuben County E.M.S..
The Sheriff’s Department says a horse was pulling the family buggy east on Lester Road near Colvin Road when it was spooked by a passing pick up truck driven by a 29-year-old man from Reading who was heading in the opposite direction at about 8:50 a.m..
The horse veered into the west bound lane and hit the dually fender of the pickup causing the buggy passengers to be ejected.
The buggy was carrying a couple and five children.
The husband and children all had non-life-threatening injuries.
Again, this was a car passing from the opposite direction. It’s easier to see how a horse can be startled by a violent noise from an unseen source. You might also assume that when the oncoming vehicle is in view of the horse, it won’t be startled by noise that it makes. But loud noises can frighten horses even when coming from a visible oncoming vehicle, as appears to have also been in the case in this instance. Horses can also behave unpredictably, for that matter, and sometimes just run off.
In the second accident, an Amish teenager lost his life in Ashtabula County, Ohio:
WINDSOR TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WOIO) – A 16-year-old boy died Saturday evening when a car struck the Amish buggy he occupied, police said.
An Amish buggy was traveling the shoulder of U.S. 322 when a 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan struck them from behind, according to a release.
A 16-year-old boy who occupied the buggy, Norman Detweiler, died on scene due to injuries sustained in the crash.
The driver of the Dodge, a 53-year-old man named Steven Mares, was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
This crash is under investigation by authorities, though police said alcohol and drugs do not appear to be involved.
Ashtabula County is one of the noteworthy handful of U.S. counties with half-a-dozen or more Amish communities. The county contains six individual Amish settlements, plus parts of the large Geauga County settlement. Based on where this happened, this young man was likely from the Geauga community.
Were either of these accidents “preventable”? Every accident is “preventable”, if you just stay home. But that is not how the Amish live, or how any of us live, and it wouldn’t be much of a life if that was the strategy we used.
A better question is whether risk is being minimized for the activities being undertaken. Amish will continue to travel by buggy and they will continue to share the roads with non-Amish (notwithstanding calls for solutions such as buggy lanes, which are only realistic on a limited basis). However, both sides, Amish and non-Amish, can do their parts to minimize risk. But even with that, accidents will happen.
Condolences to both families for the losses of their irreplaceable loved ones.