New York Rescuers struggled to rescue, ID Amish victims

By Ben Dobbin

Associated Press

BENTON, N.Y. (AP) -- The crash that killed five people in a van carrying Amish farmers in upstate New York took hours to untangle, as rescue crews struggled to free victims from the wreckage lodged under a tractor and to identify victims who typically don't carry identification.

Six people remained hospitalized Wednesday, a day after the collision between a car passing the slow moving tractor and the van full of 14 people touring rural Finger Lakes farms to study techniques compatible with their religious beliefs.

The 42-year-old driver of the car has been charged with criminally negligent homicide and driving while intoxicated.

The task of identifying the dead and injured was difficult because many Amish do not carry identification, Spike said. One of the survivors was able to give them some information at the scene and a group of Amish residents from the Jasper-Woodhull area helped identify a female victim at a hospital. Spike said the victims in the Tuesday afternoon crash were all from Steuben County.

The tractor was carrying a large spraying implement. At least four people were stuck in the wreckage before they were removed by emergency responders who used power cutting tools to free them. Four hours after the crash, responders were still removing pieces of the van from under the tractor and loading it on a flatbed truck.

Steven Eldridge of Penn Yan was arraigned after the crash Tuesday on 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. Eldridge was held on $250,000 cash bail or $125,000 bond. His next court date is Friday.

Five people in the van carrying the 13 farmers and their driver were on a tour organized through Cornell University were pronounced dead at the scene. Of the nine people taken to area hospitals, the six still hospitalized Wednesday morning were in either satisfactory or guarded condition.

Published: Thu, Jul 21, 2011