Amish buggies struck, 3 injured

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A broken-down buggy next to Hampton Volunteer Fire Company trucks.
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Two horse-drawn Amish buggies were rear-ended by a Toyota 4-Runner on U.S. Route 4 in Hampton at about 6 p.m. on April 6, injuring three people.

Hampton Volunteer Fire Company and State Police were dispatched to the scene near Dewey Road.

“Preliminary investigation shows that Thomas Morcombe, 31, of Whitehall, was traveling southwest on Route 4 when he struck two Amish buggies who were also traveling southwest on Route 4, from behind,” State Trooper Kerra Burns said. “The three people who occupied the second buggy that was struck were transported to Glen Falls Hospital to be treated for injuries.”

Morcombe responded with a comment on the situation via his wife Heather’s Facebook account via private message.

“Sun glare coming up the hill prevented me from seeing the buggies until I was right behind them. (I) went to swerve around them and tap (my) brakes, but I clipped the rear buggy which collided into the front buggy,” Morcombe said. “They went into the ditch, I went into the ditch ahead of them and hit a tree. I immediately departed my vehicle to assist, holding up a buggy while a serviceman and prior Emergency Medical Technician helped her (a young Amish girl) out from underneath.”

Thomas Morcombe added his vehicle was totaled as well as the two buggies following him crashing into the tree in the ditch ahead of where the buggies ended up.

The driver of the first buggy was identified as John Raber, 56, of Whitehall. The second buggy’s driver was identified as Danny Byler, 40, of Whitehall.

Hampton Volunteer Fire Company president Richard D. Cole was on scene directing traffic during the accident which closed the highway for well over an hour, with firefighters assisting those involved and removing the debris for close to two hours after the tones went out at 5:53 p.m..

“One of our first guys got to the scene and saw several Amish wiped out on the hill,” Cole said via phone call. “There was a woman stuck under the buggy, we helped her get out.”

Cole received confirmation during the phone call with NYVT Media from vice president and firefighter T.J. Cornell that four of the six Amish individuals in the two buggies were transported

to the hospital, with three hospitalized. Initially, the Amish people involved refused medical treatment and assistance, despite one individual having a reported compound fracture.

Marcy Arquette of Whitehall was riding as a passenger in a vehicle behind a large milk truck that was directly behind Morcombe’s vehicle at the time of the accident. She agreed that speed was not a factor in the crash in the 55 MPH zoned area.

“He (Morcombe) couldn’t have been speeding because the milk truck wouldn’t have been able to stop,” Arquette said. “The sun was just… if you look right up that hill it’s right there. I can’t imagine being in his (Morcombe’s) place. The buggies are always part-way in the road. In that particular place, it’s just hard to describe. I’m surprised the big truck was able to stop right as soon as he did when he saw the accident happen.”

Cole chimed in saying he wanted the public to know that the particular stretch of road where the accident occurred has had several similar incidents.

“It’s a dangerous stretch of road,” Cole said. “It’s a miracle that no one got killed. It could have been a lot worse.”

Arquette noted she and the driver of her vehicle got out and assisted the milk truck driver in helping any way they could. She and her friend actually called and left the scene to find a common friend to the Amish people involved who had a horse trailer.

“I was afraid for all of them,” Arquette said. “I hope they’re all okay, they were all a pretty strong bunch of people.”

Arquette wanted to clarify to the public that speed was not an issue in the destruction of the first buggy. In fact, it was a workhorse that caused the damage.

“The horse is what destroyed the first buggy,” Arquette said. “It went over the top of the first buggy.”

There is still no update on the condition of the “severe” injuries suffered by the three individuals hospitalized, but Trooper Burns said the injuries to the people were “not life-threatening” and it did not appear that any horses were injured.

Assisting agencies were Whitehall Fire Department, Skenesborough EMS and Fair Haven (Vermont) EMS.

Morcombe wanted to respond to the comments on social media claiming he was speeding or texting while driving.

“I have high functioning autism, and it’s already difficult for me to socialize with people on the internet and in-person. Knowing that I was not speeding and was unable to prevent what happened doesn’t ease my mind,” he said. “I was not on an electronic device of any sort and even offered the officer my phone for confirmation. Life brings hard times on undeserving

people. No one involved in yesterday’s accident, including myself, were at fault or deserved to be involved in the event.

“I feel extreme sorrow for everyone involved. I am not angry at the people damaging my reputation and throwing hate. I have family, friends, and a community that knows the truth and will stick by my side. I truly feel sorry for those that feel the need to spread damaging words online.”

Burns noted that this is still an active investigation. Stay tuned if and when more information on the incident arises.