Former Amish shares insight to community customs on buggy travel

Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 6:42 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – On Thursday, a local Amish family said goodbye to not one but two of their young children. 7-year-old Wilma Miller and 11-year-old Irma Miller died earlier this week in a Fillmore County traffic crash. The sisters were headed to school on Monday morning, when their horse-drawn buggy was hit from behind by an SUV. A total of four Miller siblings were in the buggy – all of them under the age of 13. That has some people questioning the Amish way of life when it comes to transportation.

“Whenever you are in Amish community, you have to pay attention to what’s in front you,” Eddie Swartzentruber says. The Rochester resident knows a thing or two about the risks associated with horse-drawn travel. Swartzentruber has a following on the social media sharing stories of his life growing up in the Amish community.

“I had a great experience growing up in the [Amish] community,” he remarks. “There’s just a lot of things that didn’t make sense to me.”

Things like why Amish were so opposed to making their buggies more visible to other drivers. So, when he was 17, he left his family in the Canton area.

“I didn’t like the religious part of it for myself,” he adds.

A religious part Swartzentruber says deems additional reflective safety devices unnecessary. He says Amish believe events like Monday’s traffic crash are all part of God’s plan.

“We were taught if they didn’t die on the buggy that they would have died somewhere else,” he notes. “It was simply their time and there is nothing we can do about it.”

Now, 10-years removed from his roots, Swartzentruber says something can be done, but he doesn’t expect that to happen.

“I would like to see what I’ve always wanted to see – a blinking red light on the buggy,” Swartzentruber stresses.

Additionally, he says an age should be established, within the Amish community, for buggy operators. He recalls he was just 8-years-old when he and his twin brother hit the road for the first time – all alone.

“It’s scary,” he candidly admits. “Anything that hits that thing and it will blow apart.”

Swartzentruber remembers his own close call with a vehicle coming up on his buggy from behind.

“They just barely made it around and they swiped us,” he says. “They ruined a few and just kept on going.”

Fortunately, Swartzentruber wasn’t hurt, but he says unless the Amish are willing to change, they will continue to put themselves in harm’s way.

“In my opinion, there could be quite a few lives saved with a simple blinking light,” he concludes.

As for the latest deadly crash in our area, law enforcement continues to investigate; telling KTTC it could be six weeks before a cause is released. No charges have been filed against the driver of the SUV, who is from Spring Valley.