Drunk Driver Kills Five Amish In Penn Yan Crash

07.20.11 | Sarah Harnisch

A Yates County man is facing drunk driving charges after he caused a crash that killed five Amish people in Yates County yesterday. Around 12:40pm Tuesday, driver Steven Eldridge -- allegedly drunk -- decided to pass a slow moving tractor on a Penn Yan road. He sped up on a curve in a no-passing zone and slammed head-on to a van carrying 14 people. A witness at the scene said, the screeching tires were deafening, and Yates County Sheriff Ronald Spike said, "I've been in this business for 40 years -- it's one of the worst accidents I've ever seen. These were Amish families and a lot of these were husbands, wives."

The van was carrying 13 Amish people on a Southern Tiern tour to learn from other farmers about how to plant their crops more efficiently. Five Amish -- Melvin Hershberger, 42;  Sarah Miller, 47; Melvin Hostetler, 40; Anna Mary Byler, 60; and Elizabeth Mast, 46 -- were all killed in the crash. Nine more people remain in the hospital.

Eldridge, who was unharmed, faces five counts of criminally negligent homicide and a DWI charge. He is being held on $250,000 bail.