Drunk driver kills 5 Amish farmers in no-passing zone


Four Amish youth have been arrested on alcohol-possession charges in western New York state after a sheriff's patrol car hit a buggy while responding to a report of underage drinking.


Stan Honda

Police arrested a driver who sideswiped a van carrying 13 Amish farmers Tuesday while trying to pass a slow-moving tractor in a no-passing zone on a New York country road.

When the driver, Steven Eldrige, 42, hit the van, it collided with the tractor, causing a crash that killed 5 Amish farmers instantly and injured 10 others, including the tractor driver, the NY Times reports. The injured were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Eldrige, of Penn Yan, N.Y., suffered minor injuries but was not hospitalized. He was charged with five counts of criminally negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, unsafe passing, speed not reasonable and prudent and failure to keep right after passing, the AP reports. His bail was set at $250,000.

The group was reportedly on its way to other farms to learn agricultural techniques that are compatible with the Amish religion as part of an excursion organized by the Cornell University Cooperative Extension. Benton, the town where they were traveling through in the Finger Lakes area of New York, is filled with soybean fields.

Although the Amish typically travel by horse and buggy because their religion prohibits driving, they can ride in an automobile driven by someone who is not a member of the community. The driver of the van, who was also injured, was not Amish.

Those killed in the crash were identified as Melvin Hershberger, 42; Sarah Miller, 47; Melvin Hostetler, 40; Anna Mary Byler, 60; and Elizabeth Mast, 46. All five lived in Steuben County, which borders Pennsylvania.