CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — While the Amish population in Eaton County generally doesn’t use social media and the internet, word of the tragic buggy crash that killed three children seemed to travel as if they did.
“The word spreads fast, spreads like fire,” said Leroy Lambright, an Amish man and friend of the family. “There are very few that don’t know.”
Three children between the ages of 6 and 13 died after a driver hit the horse-drawn buggy they were riding in from behind, the Eaton County Sheriff’s office said. The crash happened at around 3:20 p.m. on Vermontville Highway west of Ainger Road in Chester Township.
Lambright identified the victims who died as Caleb, Fannie Mae, and Elizabeth Miller. The Eaton County Sheriff’s Office said it had no plans to release the victim’s identities.
“They were happy children,” Lambright said. “About every time you met them, they had a smile or something.”
The surviving victim, Raymond Miller, was the youngest on board, Lambright said. Raymond was taken to Sparrow hospital for treatment. Sheriff’s officials said Thursday that his condition had stabilized.
Friends say the children were on their way home from the small schoolhouse they had just left and for some reason they were taking a route home they don’t usually take.
Within hours of the tragedy the Amish community had mobilized.
Wednesday evening, no fewer than a half dozen friends could be seen tending to the victim’s home.
While the immediate family traveled to the hospital to be with the surviving victim, neighbors readied their house for the difficult days ahead.
“We just all have a feeling for each other. We just all go and do what we can to help,” Lambright said. “Most of their stuff is going to get done by other people.”
Men, including Lambright, could be seen mowing the lawn while others worked inside cleaning the home and preparing meals.
“Every morning there will be somebody here making breakfast,” Lambright said. “There’s people here all day long after a tragedy like this.”
Lambright says the danger of driving horse-and-buggy is well known in the community. He said he was hit from behind last year while crossing a bridge but wasn’t hurt.
“After you get hit with a car — the car runs in the back of you. To be honest with you, there were weeks that we couldn’t go across that bridge,” Lambright said.
While he grieves for the victims, Lambright said the community won’t have any vengeance for the man who hit the children.
“We’re not going to hold anything against him,” Lambright said. “That’s not the way we — we don’t hold anything against him.”
Investigators have not released the name of the driver who hit the buggy or said publicly what caused the crash.
It’s a fact that seems far from the minds of those who are wrapping the victims’ family with love — while at the same time grieving with them.
“Everybody’s going to feel for little children,” Lambright said. “You just do.”