(Photo: Fox 13 News)
A 79-year-old Florida woman killed three people after she backed her SUV into a crowd of people who had left a church service on Sunday morning.
Landstra, a former choir director in the comunity, was backing out of her handicapped parking space with her 87-year-old husband, Fred, in the passenger seat, when she lost control of the car, plowing into a crowd of seven people. The accident claimed the lives of Margaret Vanderlaan, 72, Wilhemina Paul, 70, and Johanna Dijkhoff, 80, and seriously wounded four others.
Among those who were sent to the hospital were an 89-year-old man and three women ages 75, 71, and 67, acording to the Bradenton Herald.
"People were in a panic screaming and yelling," Bob Emeterio, a resident at the Sugar Creek Country Club who was driving a golf cart nearby in the aftermath of the accident, told The Tampa Bay Times. "It was just terrible. It was hard to believe. I counted six people on the ground. One of them wasn't moving at all."
Muriel Watts, an EMT on the scene, said that by the time she arrived Vanderlaan had already passed away.
"She was in her 70s or 80s," said Watts. "I knew she was gone. I could find no pulse. I had to bodily remove her (grieving) sister, who was on the ground over her."
From there, Watts moved on to inspect the condition of the other individuals.
"The rest had bloody heads and bloody knees," Watts said. "But there was one other woman who I couldn't at first find a pulse for, but finally did. I rubbed her back."
According to a Florida Highway Patrol report, the accident was not alcohol related. It stated that Landstra had pulled her SUV forward to clear another parked car. However, it failed to explain why the elderly woman had not put on the brakes after hitting the group of people, but instead had continued moving backwards, traveling over a curb and hitting some trees, before finally landing in a canal.
Residents of the country club said that Landstra normally uses a walker on foot and that her husband did not drive.
"She always drove," Eleanor Stone, a resident at Sugar Creek, told The Tampa Bay Times. "I don't know why."
Herman Kaldeway, Vanderlaan's brother, said that he was not angry at Landstra for what she had done and asked others to pray for her.
"I think we have to keep the lady in our prayers," said Kaldeway, who attended a memorial service for his sister on Sunday night. "It was an awful accident, not a deliberate act."
After the incident, Landstra sat on a bench near the scene and told reporters that "It was an accident."