Five Amish farmers die in New York road crash

NEW YORK Tue Jul 19, 2011 9:20pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - At least five Amish farmers were killed on Tuesday in upstate New York when a car trying to overtake a slow-moving tractor collided head-on with their van in what police described as a horrific crash.

Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike told Reuters the crash occurred when a car heading southbound in a no-passing zone tried to overtake a tractor that had spray equipment attached to it. The car then collided with the oncoming van.

"It was a horrific accident," Spike said of the crash, which took place in Benton, New York, about 60 miles southeast of Rochester.

"The vehicle collided with the van and the crash caused the van to hit the tractor. The van was hit so hard it actually was embedded underneath the tractor trapping all the passengers in the van," he added.

More than a dozen emergency vehicles rushed to the scene. Spike said five passengers in the van died while another eight were in serious condition at the hospital. Spike said none of the drivers appeared to have suffered major injuries.

He added the driver of the van was transporting 13 Amish farmers around the area for research.

"They were Amish families on a farm excursion visit trying to look at new technologies they might be able to use for their farming," he said.

Spike added identifying the Amish farmers involved in the crash has been difficult because they did not carry much identification.

Police said charges were likely against the driver that hit the van once the investigation was complete. His name has not been released.

"We have him at our office right now," Spike said. "We're still investigating the accident and interviewing him."

This is the second major roadway fatality in the area in three days. On Sunday, a tour bus crash killed two people and injured 35 others in Avoca, about 40 miles southwest of where the Amish van crash occurred.

State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D'Amico said on Tuesday that results from a preliminary investigation suggests tire failure caused the bus to veer off the road and head down an embankment before crashing into a wooded area.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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