Around 9:30 p.m. last Thursday, there was a fatal chain-reaction accident
involving three cars and a horse-drawn buggy on U.S. 35. The accident,
which occurred just south of Economy, resulted in the death of one of
the buggy’s passengers, Jonas Beiler, of Economy. Beiler, just 17
years of age, was pronounced dead at the scene. There were no other human
injuries, though the horse pulling the cart was taken for veterinary care.

The initial investigation appears to show the buggy, driven by Michael
Lapp and carrying two passengers, was northbound on U.S. 35 with no lights
on. Martin Lawson of Hagerstown was also northbound in his 2009 Ford but
did not see the buggy until it was too late. He rear-ended the buggy and
knocked it into the southbound lanes where it was sideswiped by a vehicle
driven by Norman Zile of Middletown. That collision appears to have caused
the ejection of Jonas Beiler from the buggy. After landing in the northbound
lane, Beiler was killed when he was struck by a Pontiac driven by 17-year-old
Bailey Wilkison.

U.S. 35 was closed for hours on Friday night and early Saturday morning
while Indiana State Police, including a Crash Reconstructionist, worked
with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, Perry Township Fire
Department, and Culberson Ambulance Service to serve the victims, conduct
an investigation into the accident and clear the roads for use. The investigation
is ongoing.

Buggy Accidents Not Uncommon in Indiana Amish Country

There are 270,000 Amish in the United States, with 65% of the population
residing in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Indiana alone is home to
over 50,000 Amish residents, a number that has doubled over the past twenty
years. Elkhart and the surrounding counties in northeast Indiana house
the second largest Amish population in the United States, but there are
also smaller, newer settlements, such as the one in eastern Indiana near
Economy and Hagerstown.

When traveling in one of the states with larger Amish populations, it is
not unusual to see the horse-and-buggies driving on the roads. It is critically
important for drivers of other vehicles to be aware and alert for these
slower-moving road occupants. It’s easy to assume accidents involving
buggies are rare; however, Ohio and Pennsylvania report around 60 major
crashes involving buggies each year.

When the
Ohio Department of Transportation reviewed these kinds of accidents, they found approximately half resulted
in injuries and 1% led to a fatality. These numbers are slightly higher
than what you would see in crashes where both vehicles were motorized.
The review also showed that the most common accident was a rear-end collision,
often caused by a misjudgment of how slowly the buggy was traveling.

In all three states, there is growing interest in working to ensure greater
safety for those operating buggies on the roadways, but it is important
the work be undertaken carefully and in a way respectful of the Amish
lifestyle. At Wagner Reese, we urge everyone to be cautious and respect
others on the road. If you or someone you know has been injured in a buggy
accident, please call our Indiana-based
vehicular accident attorneys for your risk-free, no-cost consultation: (888) 204-8440.