Mennonite family was on its way to pick blueberries at time of fatal buggy accident

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ST. FRANCOIS COUNTY, Mo. – An 8-year-old boy was killed Thursday when a pickup truck slammed into the rear of the buggy he was riding in. Four other people were seriously injured.

No charges are expected to be considered until after the investigation is complete.

The people in the buggy were all Old Order Mennonites. One member said they follow their faith and shy away from modern conveniences like cars and trucks.

“I’ve been working these roads here for over 15 years; I don’t remember anything this tragic,” said Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper Cpl. Juston Wheetley.

It happened on Highway OO about 8 miles south of Farmington. A pickup truck driver rear-ended the back of the horse-drawn buggy filled with six people. They were all from one family.

The 16-year-old driver of the pick-up and passenger were very remorseful.

“(The pickup) struck the rear of the buggy, traveling over and ejecting the occupants of the buggy,” Wheetley said.

The pickup driver and his passenger were not injured, nor was the 19-year-old buggy driver. The buggy occupants ranged in age from 8 to 50.

The 8-year-old was killed, two adults were taken by chopper to BJC, and two of the youngsters were flown to St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

They were all on their way to Liberty Blueberry Farms to pick blueberries. The owner of the farm said the folks were not just workers but friends.

“Very kind, very hardworking; just good people,” said Joy Boyer, co-owner of Liberty Blueberry Farms.

Members of the church operate a produce store nearby. They declined an on-camera interview but said they appreciate the prayers and support from customers.

“It broke my heart. It was terrible,” said Shirley Hamilton, a customer at the produce store. “We have grandkids their age. It just broke my heart when I heard it this morning.”

The trooper reminded folks to pay attention while on rural roads. They are not like interstates, there is no minimum speed, and these roads have signs warning of slower vehicles.

“I don’t know why people drive so fast on that road,” Hamilton said.

The buggy not only had the required signs posted on it but the trooper said the owner went a step farther and had blinking emergency lights.

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