Amish come from all around to mourn those killed in DWI crash

The scene of the crash on Pre-emption Road Tuesday / photo:

The case against the man accused of driving drunk and causing a crash that killed five people in Yates County will now head to a Grand Jury.

42-year-old Steven Eldridge, of Penn Yan, is facing a slew of charges in the crash in the Town of Benton that killed five people and left nine others seriously hurt.

He was scheduled to appear in Benton Town Court at 9:30 a.m. Friday morning. However, that court appearance was canceled as this case heads for Grand Jury review.

Meanwhile, Amish mourners from across New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio are gathering for the funerals of the five farmers killed in the violent collision with a car and tractor on a rural road.

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports they began arriving Wednesday in horse-drawn wagons, cars and pickups as families in Steuben County prepared for funerals that could start on Friday.

The farmers were in a van on an educational tour of two farms in Yates County when a car trying to pass the slow-moving tractor crashed into them Tuesday. Six victims remained hospitalized Wednesday.

Signs have gone up around the town of Jasper voicing support for the area's Amish community. One woman donating food for the families tells the Democrat and Chronicle that everyone, Amish or not, feels the loss. More than 1,000 people have begun arriving in the area for funerals this weekend for the victims.

42-year-old Melvin Hershberger, 47-year-old Sarah Miller, 40-year-old Melvin Hostetler, 60-year-old Anna Mary Byler, and 46-year-old Elizabeth Mast were pronounced dead at the scene. A small shepherd dog was also killed when the van crashed into the tractor and was stuck underneath.

The crash took place on a rural road in the Town of Benton, just north of Penn Yan. Do you think speed limits on these county roads should be examined after crashes like this? Or does the blame fall solely on the driver who was arrested?

Eldridge was not injured in the crash. Wednesday, Yates County deputies revealed Eldridge spent time in prison from 2008-2010 for stealing a police car in Rochester.

In this case, he's charged with five counts of felony criminally negligent homicide and driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, unsafe passing, speed not reasonable and prudent and failure to keep right after passing.

He was assigned an attorney from the Yates county Public Defender's office and remains behind bars at the Yates County Jail. Sheriff's deputies are currently awaiting results of the urine specimen analysis at the Monroe County Regional Crime Lab.

Meanwhile, investigators are making plans to reenact the accident as part of their investigation.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.