ISLAND FALLS, Maine — Four Amish children injured Monday when a car struck their horse-drawn buggy have been treated and released from Houlton Regional Hospital, according to police.
No charges have been filed at this point against the operators of either vehicle, Lt. John Cote of the Maine State Police Houlton barracks said Tuesday, but the accident remains under investigation.
Stephen Porter, 62, of Sherman was traveling west on Route 2 in Island Falls and passing the Daniel Miller residence just after 2:30 p.m. Monday, when a horse-drawn buggy carrying four of Miller’s children attempted to cross the road, according to information released late Monday night by Maine State Police Sgt. Chadwick Fuller.
The children, ages 9, 8, 7 and 5, reportedly were moving wood from one location on the Miller property to another and did not stop to check for traffic before entering the roadway from behind a thick tree line and into Porter’s path, Fuller said.
Porter, who was driving a 2003 Volkswagen station wagon, did not see the horse and buggy and subsequently struck the horse, sending the buggy into the air and ejecting the children, Fuller said.
The sergeant said the children were taken by ambulance to the Houlton hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. The horse was killed by the impact.
Porter was not injured.
On Tuesday, Cote said the buggy, while not licensed, is considered a “vehicle” with regards to rules of the road.
“They need to stay on the right side of the road and follow traffic laws,” Cote said. “There are also many laws that regulate motor vehicle operation when in the proximity of horses [such as] needing to come to a complete stop if a horse is startled and you can’t use a horn to startle a horse.”
At the same time, riders on horseback, horse-drawn vehicles and even pedestrians are obligated to yield to traffic to give someone driving an approaching motorized vehicle time to react, Cote said.
“In this case there was a treeline that obstructed the driver’s view of the buggy,” he said. “As for the driver of the buggy, there was a lot of horse out beyond where the driver could see past that treeline.”
Unlicensed farm equipment is allowed on public roads only when traveling directly from one part of the owner’s property to another, Cote said.
In Aroostook County, Cote said, children under the age of 16 operating farm machinery is “often part of growing up in the County.”
In November, University of Maine student Brandon Clark of Fort Fairfield was charged in connection with a hit-and-run accident after he struck a horse-powered buggy on Route 1A in Easton and subsequently fled the scene.
In that case neither the horse nor the 16-year-old operating the buggy were injured. But Clark was charged with leaving the scene of a property damage accident, driving to endanger, failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle and failure to use caution when passing an animal.