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Sheriff: Charges filed in buggy accident

Staff reports
The Chronicle Express

John Christensen

The Chronicle-Express

The driver in the car vs. horse & buggy accident that occurred Aug. 9 on East Sherman Hollow Road four miles west of Penn Yan has been charged with traffic violations.

Justin Niver, 24, of Comstock Road, Penn Yan,  has been charged with following too closely, failure to exercise due care to avoid collision with a horse, and failure to wear a seat belt. He will answer in Jerusalem Town Court.

The badly injured horse in Sunday’s buggy accident had to be euthanized at the scene by a veterinarian.

Sheriff Ron Spike says the charges were filed after investigation, reconstruction, vehicle examination, witness and driver statements, and consultation with the District Attorney’s office. The investigation concluded there was no impairment, no distraction and that no unsafe passing event occurred as was first suggested. The Accident Investigation Unit determined that Niver’s car approached the rear of the buggy at the crest of the hill so closely that his right front crashed the left rear of the buggy, causing the seven occupants to be ejected, and then collided with the horse. Spike says the car was travelling at 52 mph at point of contact with the buggy which was traveling at approximately 5 mph.

The buggy driver, Matthew Sensenig, 33 of Italy-Friend Road, Penn Yan with his wife, Katrina, 33 and five of their children, aged 7 months to 9 years, all were injured and taken to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester by helicopters and ambulances. Another Sensenig son was riding a bicycle in front of the horse/buggy at the time and not involved. A veterinarian was called to euthanize the badly injured horse at the scene.

Penn Yan Police Chief Thomas Dunham reports that PYPD Sergeant Derek Chisom was on his way to work when he came upon the accident scene. A Yates County Sheriff’s unit was on scene but seeing the severity of the accident, Chisom stopped to lend assistance. 

“While assisting the victims, Sgt. Chisom applied a tourniquet to the leg of a 7-year-old girl who had suffered a deep laceration,” says Dunham. “Our office was contacted by Mercy Flight to report that Sgt. Chisom’s actions and the actions of those on scene saved the girl’s life. This was an excellent job by Sgt. Chisom and all involved. We wish for the family to have a full and speedy recovery.”

The Sensenig family gave friend Debbie Shoemaker North permission to inform the community that 7-year-old Lynelle Sensenig, who was hit directly, suffered a fractured skull, and was in surgery for six hours on both legs. Her brain function is being monitored and the doctors are hopeful that there is no permanent damage, but the anticipated hospital stay is six weeks at Strong.

All other family members are now home. The 7-month-old baby has 15 stitches in his head, but is cheerful and alert. The three other boys have scrapes and bruises, one had a mild concussion. Katrina and Matthew both had concussions. Both are bed bound. Matthew has head and neck injuries, with four fractured vertebrae and a crushed sternum. Family members have moved in to take care of everything, and the Mennonite community is providing daily help and meals.

Those wishing to help are asked to donate to the medical fund with checks payable to “Mid-West Old Order Mennonite Church,” and mailed to: C/O Deacon John Hoover, 1324 Route 54, Penn Yan, NY 14527.

One of the Sensenig’s neighbors is also collecting gift cards for Aldi’s, Tops, and gas cards for trips back and forth to Rochester. Those, and cards of comfort for the family, may be sent to neighbor Ruth Brubaker, 1996 Guyanoga Road, Penn Yan, NY 14527.