Two Fatal Buggy Crashes Happened On Back-to-Back Days (Ohio & Michigan)

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.

Preventable?

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.

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    6 Comments

    1. Two fatal buggy crash in Ohio and Michigan

      I’m so deeply sadden by this terrible accident. My prayers go out to their families. Thier must be a way to divide the road with barriers or build a separate road just for horse and buggies like they have for bicycle lanes. My heart goes out in sympathy this should not happen. I wish thier was something I could do for thier family.

    2. CoraVee Caswell

      Branch Co accident

      This is a Swiss Amish settlement, so there are only open buggies.It was on a rather narrow gravel back road. I live a few miles away. I was told by a family member that the truck driver, seeing the horse was getting nervous, had slowed down to 10 mph, but as he went by them, the horse jumped between the truck and the trailer. Barbara was holding the baby, but it was thrown clear, unharmed. She died later in the hospital, surrounded by family. Here they allow family when death is imminent, in spite of covid restrictions. Apparently this accident can only be blamed on the horse. Better roads will not help if a horse goes out of control. And trucks with trailers are common, passing through many times a day, and some of them are loud. Most of their horses are used to it.

      1. Reply to comment by corabee

        You mentioned your comment the truck driver seeing the horse became nervous meaning he saw the horse acting up he should of stopped and let the horse and buggy pass. I suggest something can be done to prevent these kind of accidents. Prepare another roadway near the road so these horse and buggy travel safe. Perhaps all the land owned near the roadway could be donated and these people can come together to plow another road take up collections to gravel or re-route these trucks to another area if possible. Someone needs to find out who owns the land and help these people establish another roadway to be much safer for Thier travel. You can’t count on horses to always be use to circumstances as these trucks pass. So best solution would be to prepare another roadway for their safety like they have many bike lanes. Thank you for your input but I don’t blame the horse its natural I blame the circumstances of the sharing of the road and someone out in that area should step up and fix this problem so these people can remain safe. They do it for bicycle riders they can do it for these people.

    3. Kevin Lindsey

      That is so sad to hear. You have to always be careful around horses, as you never know what’s going to spook them. I think your reposting the safe driving hints is a good and very appropriate response to the tragedies. Our prayers fir the victims and their families.

    4. Aj

      There are over 350,000 Amish. That is a nice little city. St Louis with a population of 300,000 had 73 car accident deaths alone in 2019. By comparison, there are only 1-2 dozen deaths a year related to buggies. And most of them are because of reckless car drivers. In Michigan, there have only be 8 deaths related to buggies-car accidents between 2014-2019 compared to thousands of car accident deaths.

    5. Linda Andersen

      buggy accidents

      So sad about so many accidents. Not only do people lose their lives, horses are often killed as well. I live amongst the Amish, when you do, you must be cognisant of the buggies in the area. I have seen so many people speed by them or creeping up behind them. We can safely share the road if people would be a bit more careful.