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5 dead in upstate car-tractor-van crash

BENTON -- A car passing a slow-moving farm tractor on a curve sideswiped an oncoming van carrying 13 Amish farmers through upstate's rural Finger Lakes region Tuesday, sending the van under the tractor and killing five passengers in the van, police said.

Yates County Sheriff Ronald Spike said five people in the van were pronounced dead at the scene, 43 miles southeast of Rochester, and eight were taken to hospitals, some with "very serious" injuries. The tractor driver was also taken to a hospital. The car's driver had minor injuries but was not hospitalized, Spike said.

There were 14 people in the van; the driver was not Amish, as they generally don't drive. Among the dead was at least one married couple, authorities said.

The crash happened about 30 miles northeast of the spot in Steuben County where a tour bus crashed Sunday on Interstate 390, killing two people and injuring 35.

Around 12:40 p.m. Tuesday, the car tried to go around the tractor in a no-passing zone on a two-lane curved road, officials said.

"In passing, [the car] glanced off the van and went off the highway, and the van ended up going underneath the farm tractor," Spike said.

The driver of the car, a man from nearby Penn Yan, was being questioned late Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.

No names of the dead or injured were available Tuesday afternoon. Spike said the task of identification was difficult because many Amish do not carry an ID.

One of the survivors of the crash told authorities that the victims were all adults from Steuben County. The group was visiting farms on an excursion organized by Cornell University to learn techniques compatible with Amish practices, the survivor told officials.

Relatives of the victims were gathering at a church in Steuben County to await information.

The tractor was carrying a large spraying implement. At least four people were stuck in the wreckage before they were removed by emergency responders who used power cutting tools to free them, authorities said.

Four hours after the crash, responders were still removing pieces of the van from under the tractor and loading it on a flatbed truck.

"It took a long time to get the individuals out because the van ended up entangled and underneath the large tractor with the spray equipment on it," Spike said.

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