Suspect in fatal DWI crash with Amish van has criminal record

The crash scene Tuesday afternoon / photo: WHEC

The man charged after a wreck that killed five Amish farmers in rural Yates County had spent time in prison for stealing a Rochester police car and leading cops on a 20 minute chase in 2006.

Police said then that 42-year-old Steven A. Eldridge of Penn Yan tried to back into the car during a traffic stop, struggled with an officer and then drove off in the cruiser. State records show he served more then two years in prison for auto theft. Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike says Eldridge was paroled from prison in December 2008 and completed his parole in April 2010.

Police say Eldridge was passing a slow moving tractor on a curve when he crashed into a van in the Town of Benton, 68 miles southwest of Syracuse. Spike called the scene "horrific." Eldridge is facing five counts of criminally negligent homicide, as well as addition charges of DWI reckless driving, unsafe passing, speed not reasonable and prudent, and failure to keep right after passing.

Eldridge is scheduled to appear in Town of Benton Court on Friday morning to answer the charges against him. Nine other people were also hurt in the crash. Considering his past criminal record, what sort of punishment should Eldridge face if he is convicted of these charges?

The group of 13 Amish farmers and their van driver were touring farms in the Finger Lakes region Tuesday afternoon. Police say all five deceased victims have been identified, and have been turned over to a funeral service and taken back to their home in Jasper-Woodhull in Steuben County for burial.

Eldridge was not injured in the crash.

Police also say a small dog that belonged to one of the van's occupants was also crushed and killed in the crash. The dog TMs body has been released to friends of the Amish for burial back at its home.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.