GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who ran into the back of a horse-drawn Amish buggy in a crash that killed three children says the accident haunts him.
Ronald Ramsey, 83, of Vermontville, confirmed that he was behind the wheel of the Chevy Equinox SUV that hit the buggy around 3:20 p.m. Sept. 18 on Vermontville Highway, west of Ainger Road in Chester Township.
A family friend confirmed the children who died are Caleb, Fannie Mae, and Elizabeth Miller. They were between the ages of 6 and 13 years old and headed home from school when the crash happened.
Ramsey told News 8 in an interview Friday that he didn’t see the buggy until it was too late.
“Shade trees were over the road, but I was also facing the sun,” Ramsey said. “I just didn’t see the buggy until I was on top of it.”
“I’ve passed buggies hundreds of times on the same road,” he added. “I’ve always been able to go around them.”
Ramsey said people in the area immediately responded to the scene to help. Still, three of the children could not be saved and died at the scene.
A fourth child, reportedly the youngest rider in the buggy, was taken to the hospital and expected to recover from his injuries.
More than a week after the accident, the scene still replays in Ramsey’s mind.
“I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night and still thinking of the same thing — the last second before I connected with the buggy,” Ramsey said. “My feelings haven’t dropped any at all… The sorrow. I think of these young ones. Got their whole life — or should’ve had their whole life ahead of them.”
Ramsey is a widower who lives alone. His wife died a year ago, and he feels as though he’s “facing this alone.”
“I’ve got a daughter that’s been here constantly. She’s my right hand,” Ramsey said.
Also helping him through his healing process — the loved ones of the children killed in the crash.
Ramsey said he’d received several cards from members of the Amish community. Some of them are from relatives of the victims.
“It’s been for several days now, I’ve been getting cards from them,” Ramsey said. “I’m included in their prayers, which I appreciate.”
Ramsey said he has not yet spoken to the Miller family in person, but he has communicated messages to them through his pastor. He says he hopes to meet with them when the time is right.
“They know I want to meet them at some time,” Ramsey said.
He doesn’t know what he’ll say.
“This was an accident. What do you say to anybody when you take their kids?” Ramsey said. “I know how bad I feel. I’m in misery all the time.”
Secretary of State records show that Ramsey has a clean driving record, officials said. Most violations do fall off of a driver’s record after a certain time so the information may not include violations older than three years.
Ramsey said he used to drive semi-trucks. He doesn’t question his abilities at the wheel.
“I know I’m a capable driver with all the years of experience,” Ramsey said.
Still, he hasn’t driven since the accident.
“I’ve got a truck and it sets there in my drive. I just don’t use it,” Ramsey said. “I haven’t driven at all since.”
He says he plans to drive again at some point.
Eaton County sheriff’s officials say their investigation into the accident continues and no decisions have been made on whether the driver of the SUV will face criminal charges.
Sheriff’s officials said there were no obvious signs that drugs or alcohol were factors, but they are still working to rule them out.
“I wasn’t speeding,” Ramsey said. “There’re no drugs or liquor involved.”
In any case, Ramsey said, the pain from the accident will always be with him.
“I just feel terrible. If I would’ve seen them in time I would’ve avoided them,” Ramsey said. “It’s the worst thing I have ever faced… I will live with this for the rest of my life.”