Police: Alcohol not suspected in fatal Fla. crash

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Associated Press

Posted on February 2, 2014 at 9:01 PM

Updated Sunday, Feb 2 at 10:34 PM

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — A 79-year-old woman attempting to maneuver in a Florida parking lot backed into a group of people Sunday, killing three people and injuring four others, authorities said.

A Florida Highway Patrol report released Sunday night indicated the accident wasn't alcohol related. The report didn't list any charges for the driver, identified as Doreen Landstra of Palmetto, but said the investigation was continuing.

The accident happened at a mobile home community called the Sugar Creek Country Club at 11:20 a.m. in Bradenton, about 45 miles south of Tampa. Residents had gathered for church services inside a clubhouse building, Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Gregory Bueno said.

The report says Landstra backed out of a parking spot, pulled her 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV forward and needed more room to clear another parked vehicle. At that point, Landstra's SUV began backing up again and struck seven people. The report doesn't make clear why she failed to stop before hitting people.

The report says the Tahoe continued in the same direction before running over a curb, colliding with some small trees and coming to rest in a canal, partially submerged.

Trooper Keil Nana and witnesses told the Bradenton Herald (http://bit.ly/1cKGpvj) that the driver apparently thought she had the car in drive — and not reverse — when she pressed the gas pedal.

Messages left for Landstra on Sunday night weren't immediately returned. Neither she nor her passenger were injured.

One person was pronounced dead at the scene, and two others died after being transported to a nearby hospital. The police report identified those who died as Margaret Vanderlaan, 72; Wilhemina Paul, 70; and Johanna Djikhoff, 80. All three were from Bradenton.

The police report characterizes the injuries of four other pedestrians as serious and says they were taken to hospitals.

Sugar Creek Estates resident and retired emergency medical technician Muriel Watts described the aftermath of the crash to the Bradenton newspaper as "a horrible sight."

She said she approached one elderly woman who was lying face down on the ground but could not find a pulse.

"I knew she was gone," Watts said.

She then helped a man who had "tire tracks from his ankles to armpits."

The other victims had bloody heads and knees, she said.

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