Hit & run truck vs. buggy crash injures mother and daughter

John Christensen
The Chronicle Express

GORHAM – In the latest of what has become a repeating series of area road crashes of vehicles striking horse-drawn buggies, Ontario County Sheriff's Deputies are investigating a hit & run crash Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 25 that left two passengers of a buggy injured and forced the euthanasia of the horse.

Signs warning drivers of slow moving Mennonite horse & buggies in the area are not doing enough to keep the roads safe.

Deputies said the horse & buggy was traveling on state Route 245 at 3:23 p.m. when it was struck from behind by a dark green Chevrolet pickup truck with a translucent white water tank in its bed. According to witnesses, the truck’s driver fled the scene. He or she is being sought by police.

Rushville firefighters, Middlesex Ambulance, Canandaigua Emergency Squad, the Office of Emergency Management, and Mercy Flight responded with Ontario County and Yates County Deputies. Route 245, between Baldwin Road and Main Street, Rushville, was closed for about 90 minutes during the emergency response.

The buggy's occupants, Annetta Fox, 53, and her daughter, Roseanna Fox, 18, both of Lake-To-Lake Road in Gorham, were taken to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester for treatment of injuries; Annetta was taken by Canandaigua Ambulance while Roseanna was airlifted by Mercy Flight.

The panicked horse ran from the scene and was soon captured in the area, but had to be euthanized due to its injuries.

According to those in touch with the Fox family, both women remain in Strong Memorial Hospital. Annetta is conscious but has a large contusion on her head and some deep lacerations on her limbs. Her daughter, Roseanna, is in the ICU but is stable. She suffered a fractured skull, several broken ribs, and damage to her spleen and lungs, and is undergoing repeated scans to monitor her recovery.

Anyone with information regarding the vehicle involved or who witnessed the accident are asked to contact the Sheriff's Office at 585-394-4560 immediately.

What can be done for safety?

After the last major car vs. buggy crash in Yates County involving an elderly Mennonite couple, Ivan Horning, 80, and Ella Horning, 79, in Benton, a meeting was organized by Brian Zerges of Finger Lakes Premier Properties at his company in Penn Yan. One of Zerges’ employees, Ada Horning, 67, of Potter, was killed in a accident of the same type just weeks before the Hornings’ accident. 

The meeting included several representatives from the Mennonite community, Yates County’s Sheriff Ron Spike, Administrator-Treasurer Nonie Flynn, and Highway Superintendent Craig Prior, as well as engineers from the N.Y. State Dept. of Transportation. As a result of that meeting, Earl, Henry, and Ivan Martin, Mahlon Hurst, and Elias Hoover authored an article that was published in the Mennonite community newsletter, The Flame.

“Several different topics were discussed at length,” they state in the article, “including widening road shoulders In some areas; installing more horse & buggy signs to alert drivers that they are coming into a horse & buggy area; reducing speed limits in some areas; and even adding more training about slow moving vehicles to the driver's education courses.”

“The new strobe lights that some people have been installing on their buggies generated a lot of interest. We took a strobe light along to the meeting and demonstrated it. Sheriff Ron Spike said that he recently examined a buggy with a strobe on it. He videoed the buggy with the strobe light turned on and also with the regular four way flashers turned on. Spike was impressed with the superior visibility of the strobe.”

“We talked about some of the recent accidents. Someone pointed out that all of the accidents that we've been having are happening in full daylight. Many of the accidents happen on state routes or other high speed stretches of road; and surprisingly, often in areas with good visibility! Many of the drivers who hit a buggy state that they never saw the buggy. Also most of the drivers in these incidents were local people who are used to driving in this area and seeing buggies on the road.”

Spike highlighted the importance of placement of the strobes high on the buggies for wider visibility, and that they should only be used in daylight rather than at night when they could blind drivers. He praised the strobe’s daytime visibility when the orange slow moving vehicle (SMV) triangles are not as visible. 

The DOT engineers for this region are working toward conducting a survey of the roads in the area heavily trafficked by buggies, tractors and other SMVs to identify any problem areas and how to best address them. They suggested increased signage, but informed the group they are only allowed federally approved signs.

“Everyone who was present at the meeting agreed that installing strobe lights on the horse-drawn vehicles should be one of the first things to happen,” says the Flame letter. “The lights are relatively inexpensive to purchase and install, and they could make your next trip a lot safer for you and your family,” they advise buggy owners. “The strobe lights are available from the buggy shops in this area. The buggy makers are willing to take mail orders for the lights if you don't have a shop near you.”

Sheriff Spike's spiral-bound driver's safety handbook, "Slow Moving Vehicles: Guide to Sharing the Road" is available at the front of The Chronicle-Express at 138 Main St. in Penn Yan.

Sheriff Spike is also distributing a spiral-bound handbook published by the N.Y. State Sheriff’s Association, “Slow Moving Vehicles: Guide to Sharing the Road,” with instructions and advice for driver safety around SMVs. 

Interestingly, Spike also relayed that there is no state classification for accident reports involving SMVs, so finding meaningful statistics on this type of accident is almost impossible.

As ever, Sheriff Spike reminds all drivers, residents and visitors alike, of the importance of being aware of SMVs in our agricultural community, and to always “Share the road!”