BENTON — The cell phone of the Geneva man whose car slammed into a horse-drawn buggy earlier this week, injuring two well-known Mennonites, is being looked at as part of a police investigation that could lead to criminal charges.
Sheriff Ron Spike said the driver, William Valentin, 55, has been issued traffic tickets for failing to exercise due care in approaching a horse and following too closely.
“We have discussed this case with District Attorney Todd Casella for consideration of criminal negligence assault by a vehicle charges,” Spike said in a news release. “District Attorney Casella has agreed to present the matter to the next session of the Yates County Grand Jury for their consideration if criminal charges are appropriate.”
The crash happened about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday(July 21) on Route 14A, near Marble’s Automotive, just north of the village of Penn Yan. Ivan Horning, 80, was driving the buggy north on Route 14A with his 79-year-old wife, Ella, as a passenger.
Spike said Horning was on the far right side of the road, straddling the fog line, on a part of Route 14A that has two northbound lanes as it goes up a fairly steep hill. A family member who spoke to the Times said in addition to a slow-moving vehicle emblem, Ivan’s buggy had blinking lights that likely were on at the time.
Spike said without warning, the buggy was rear-ended by Valentin’s Chevrolet Impala that also was traveling north. The impact ejected the Hornings from the buggy.
The couple was taken by medical helicopters to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester with what Spike called serious head and internal injuries, including fractures.
Ivan Horning was listed in guarded condition Friday at Strong. Ella Horning was listed in satisfactory condition.
The Hornings’ horse, which survived, ran from the scene. It later was secured by a nearby farmer.
Spike said Valentin’s car suffered major damage to the front end and right side and was towed from the scene. Valentin was not injured.
Spike said deputies have ruled out intoxication or drug impairment, saying that contributing factors include driver distraction, inattention and vehicle speed.
“Sheriff’s criminal investigators are doing other forensic tests involving other equipment related to the vehicle, including a cell phone,” Spike said.
Ivan Horning was the longtime owner of Horning’s Greenhouse, which is now owned by a family member after Ivan retired. The family member said Ivan and Ella, who were one of the first Mennonite families to move from Pennsylvania to Benton in 1977, are well known to many Yates County and Penn Yan residents.