DUBLIN, Ky. >> A horse-drawn buggy carrying an Amish family of nine home from making a phone call toppled in a rain-swollen creek in rural Kentucky, killing four children who were swept away in the water, authorities said today.
The group was traveling in a downpour in the dark Thursday about 8:30 p.m. CST when the buggy flipped during a severe storm. The buggy was crossing a creek that is normally a trickle, but often floods during heavy rains.
Those killed were a 5-month-old; a 5-year-old; a 7-year-old and an 11-year-old girl. Three of the children were siblings and one was a cousin.
Two adults and three other children escaped. The horse that was pulling the buggy also survived.
The uncle of the 11-year-old girl who died said the family had used what is known as a “phone shack” and was going home when the buggy overturned.
“She was just an all-around good girl,” Levi Yoder, 30, said of his niece.
The discovery of her body about 9:45 a.m. today dashed hopes that she might have been alive, clinging to a tree or rock through the night. The other three bodies were discovered shortly after midnight.
They buggy was traveling in the sparsely populated farming community of Dublin, heavily populated with Amish, in far western Kentucky near the Tennessee, Missouri and Illinois borders.
The apparently unnamed creek flows through farmland along a narrow, paved road.
“Whenever they crossed it, the water was so swift it just took the buggy and tipped it over,” Graves County Sheriff Dewayne Redmon said.
The Amish community in and around Dublin is conservative and private, said Teresa Cantrell, mayor of Mayfield, the closest city.
Kentucky has nearly 8,000 Amish and 31 settlements around the state, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa. Many Amish in Graves County are members of the Swartzentruber community, a sect that shuns modern conveniences, like appliances and electric lighting.
Under overcast skies before the last body was found, several Amish men watched over the accident scene as rescue workers traveled up and down the muddy creek bed in four-wheelers. The mud-caked and damaged buggy sat upright on the side of the creek, empty. At least one Amish man was riding on horseback up and down the creek.
A line of severe storms pounded the nation’s midsection Thursday, knocking down trees, splintering power lines and spawning several apparent tornadoes. Winds between 60 and 80 mph blew through some areas.
Authorities had urged people to stay inside as forecasts called for hail and isolated tornadoes.
In Nashville, Tenn., about 120 miles southeast of the buggy accident, emergency officials told workers to get home by 6 p.m. and stay there after it had rained most of the day. Sandbags were put up around Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital to guard against flooding.