Police: Woman, 79, Kills 3 While Backing Out of Church Parking Space
(CNN) — A 79-year-old Florida woman backed over seven pedestrians Sunday morning while backing out of a handicapped space in a church parking lot, killing three people, police say.
Doreen Landstra was backing out of a space in the parking lot of a 55-and-older mobile home community in East Bradenton when she lost control of her SUV, striking the pedestrians and crashing over a curb before coming to rest partially submerged in a creek.
Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Gregory Bueno tells CNN charges are pending as the investigation continues.
Landstra, a former choir director in the Bradenton community, according to CNN affiliate Bay News 9, was leaving church when, according to witnesses, she appeared to think she put her Chevrolet SUV in drive but instead shifted into reverse.
According to Bueno, three Bradenton residents — Johanna Dijkhoff, 80, Wilhemina Paul, 70 and Margaret Vanderlaan, 72 — died as a result of their injuries. Four others sustained serious injuries and were taken to an area hospital. One has since been released, Bueno said.
Witness Jan Verstveg told Bay News 9 that he watched Landstra reverse into the crowd. Landstra told witnesses “somehow the pedal got stuck” and that “it was all a terrible accident,” Verstveg recalled. Some witnesses told Bay News 9 they “heard screams.”
Landstra’s 87-year-old husband was in the car with her. Neither sustained injuries. Landstra was interviewed by investigators at the scene and then left with her family, according to Bay News 9.
Bueno declined to provide CNN with details regarding Landstra’s condition at the time of the crash and was unable to speculate on possible charges she may face. The Florida Highway Patrol said in a report that the accident was not alcohol related.