After deadly accident Elkhart Sheriff's Department addresses safety concerns

ELKHART, Ind. – Investigators with the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department haven’t yet determined a cause for Monday’s collision between an SUV and two pony-carts that left two children dead and four injured but in stable condition.  At a press conference on Tuesday, Department officials said crash investigations take time.

“They fall usually between two-weeks and 30-days, we don’t want to rush these things for obvious reasons,” explained Undersheriff Sean Holmes.

Holmes went on to explain that they hadn’t yet determined how fast the SUV was going when it collided with the carts on County Road 24, which has an unposted speed limit of 55 miles-per-hour.

“I will tell you, at 55 miles-per-hour, you travel several hundred feet before the average person can react,” he described.  “As far as reaction times and sheer physics, those are things that have to be worked out down the road.”

But, while they don’t have a clear idea of why the accident occurred, Undersheriff Holmes did explain in greater detail what happened when the car struck the carts which were being towed by a single pony.

“The pony made it into the road, the carts did not,” he explained.  “The pony was struck, which pulled the carts around and then the rest of the crash happened, that’s what it looks like.”

Holmes said there was no evidence yet that either driver had been distracted, though he did say a cornfield directly in front of the driveway the carts pulled out of might have obstructed the vision of either the driver of the car or the 10-year-old who was driving the carts.

“Whether that’s a factor or not, again it’s too early to tell,” he explained.

Because there hasn’t been much time for the investigation to develop, Tuesday’s press conference focused mostly on safety concerns that had been brought up by members of the community.  Such as, is there a law against 10-year-olds driving horse drawn carts on roadways?

“No there’s not, not at this point,” he explained.  “But, I’ll answer that question with a question.  Do you allow a 10-year-old to ride a bicycle on a roadway?  Yes, we do, there’s no laws governing that.”

There have been many public comments focusing on whether it’s safe for Mennonite or Amish citizens to drive carts of buggies on roadways.  Undersheriff Holmes explained that he believed they posed no more risk than any other vehicle commonly found on the road.

“Most people ride bicycles, most people may drive a riding lawn mower, there’s a lot of farmers that drive their tractors,” he explained.  “We’ve had similar crashes with tractors.”

But, Holmes did say there isn’t a program in place to educate Amish or Mennonite children on roadway safety.

“Maybe that’s something we ought to look at as a community,” he said.  “If they’re going to be allowed to drive on the road in carts, how about some education?  Just like bikes.”

The Sheriff’s Department is examining their records to see just how many accidents there have been involving horse carts, those records may be released tomorrow.  Undersheriff Holmes did say that in the past two-years there have been six accidents in the area on County Road 24 where Monday's accident occurred and it was the only one involving a horse cart and was the only fatal accident. 

Share this article: