ELLERY – On an unseasonably warm evening just two days after Christmas, Wesley “Wes” Lutgen and his son, Benjamin, decided to walk from their home to a nearby relative’s home for what promised to be a happy family gathering.
They never made it.
Lutgen, 85, and his 42-year-old son were struck and killed by a minivan driven by a family friend at about 6 p.m. on Saturday, state police reported.
“The two men were walking in the street, in dark clothing, with traffic, and the driver said she just didn’t see them,” said Investigator David Haines. “The driver was very shaken up afterward. It’s a lot to digest.”
Haines said the 65-year-old driver, whose name was not released, was especially upset because she was a neighbor and family friend of the two victims.
The accident investigation is continuing, but so far, no charges have been filed against the driver, and Haines said he found no evidence of drug use, alcohol use or unsafe driving.
Family members of Wesley and Benjamin Lutgen were reeling Sunday after learning of the deaths of the two men, who lived in the Chautauqua County hamlet of Maple Springs, which is close to the waterfront village of Bemus Point.
Wesley Lutgen was a widower and father of seven. He was a former country musician who played steel guitar with the Lone Star Rangers, a band that was popular in the region in the 1940s and 1950s. According to his family, he was also a retired Town of Ellery snowplow driver.
His son had worked as a paramedic. The father and son lived together in Maple Springs.
They were taking a short walk to eat dinner at the home of Wendy Chapman, one of Wesley Lutgen’s daughters, when the van hit them, said Annette Lutgen, Wesley Lutgen’s sister-in-law whose late husband, Clyde, played bass fiddle with the Lone Star Rangers.
“It was such a nice night out, they decided to walk. She doesn’t live any more than shouting distance from their house,” Annette Lutgen said. “It’s just so hard to believe this happened.”
The accident happened on Maple Springs-Ellery Road, very close to the Maple Springs Volunteer Fire Station.
Medical personnel arrived quickly, but according to Annette Lutgen, Wesley Lutgen died almost immediately, and his son soon after.
According to Hillbilly-Music.com, a country music website, the band was led by Wes Lutgen and known for playing Texas music, performing at square dances and also had its music played “on three New York radio stations” in the 1950s.
The driver involved in Saturday’s accident was not injured, police said.