Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

SUV crash kills 3 after church service in Bradenton

A Chevrolet Tahoe involved in an accident that authorities say killed three people at the Sugar Creek Country Club in Bradenton on Sunday is placed on a tow truck after it was pulled out of a nearby canal. The accident at the mobile home community is under investigation.

RICHARD DYMOND | Bradenton Herald

A Chevrolet Tahoe involved in an accident that authorities say killed three people at the Sugar Creek Country Club in Bradenton on Sunday is placed on a tow truck after it was pulled out of a nearby canal. The accident at the mobile home community is under investigation.

BRADENTON — They came together in fellowship Sunday to pray and take communion in a retirement village like so many in Florida. Golf carts passed on sedate streets with signs that playfully warned, "Caution. Seniors at play."

As residents of the Sugar Creek Country Club left their clubhouse after a church service ended at 11 a.m., knots of people lingered in the parking lot to talk, laugh and share gossip.

That's when Doreen Land­stra, 79, a former choir director at the community in Bradenton, backed out of a handicapped parking space and lost control of her SUV, barreling over a group of residents, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The accident killed three people and left four others injured at the mobile home community, about 45 miles south of Tampa.

"People were in a panic screaming and yelling," said resident Bob Emeterio, who was driving nearby in a golf cart when the accident occurred. "It was just terrible. It was hard to believe. I counted six people on the ground. One of them wasn't moving at all."

An FHP report says Land­stra backed out of a parking spot, pulled her 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe forward and needed more room to clear another parked vehicle. Her husband, Fred Landstra, 87, was in the passenger seat. At that point, Doreen 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.

The accident was not alcohol-related and the investigation was continuing, the FHP said.

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

Residents of the community said Landstra gets around on foot with the aid of a walker. At the time of the accident, she was headed to dinner with friends in town from Michigan, said Eleanor Stone, a resident who knows Landstra. She said Landstra didn't allow her husband to drive.

"She always drove," Stone said. "I don't know why."

Landstra sat on a bench near the clubhouse by her husband after the crash and told a reporter for the Bradenton Herald, "It was an accident."

Pastor Gerrit Koedoot, who is a resident of the community, said Landstra was in shock. "I don't really think she knew what happened," he said.

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 Dijkhoff, 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.

Muriel Watts, a Sugar Creek Country Club resident and a retired emergency medical technician, described the aftermath of the crash to the Bradenton Herald 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. A resident covered the dead woman with a tablecloth.

Herman Kaldeway, Margaret Vanderlaan's brother who also lived in the community, attended a memorial service at the clubhouse about 7 p.m. He said he held no ill will toward Landstra.

"I think we have to keep the lady in our prayers," Kaldeway said. "It was an awful accident, not a deliberate act."

Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Weston Phippen contributed to this report, which also contains information from the Associated Press.

SUV crash kills 3 after church service in Bradenton 02/02/14 [Last modified: Monday, February 3, 2014 12:02am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs


    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Trump announces $10 billion Foxconn plant in Wisconsin


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that's expected to initially create 3,000 jobs, the largest economic development project in state history.

    President Donald Trump embraces Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the East Room of the White House during an announcement Wednesday that Foxconn is going to build a plant in Wisconsin.
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with key series at Yankees up first (w/ video)

    The Heater


    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Conservatives come to Sessions' defense amid Trump attacks


    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and influential conservatives rallied around Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday as President Donald Trump kept up his public pelting of the nation's top law enforcement officer and left his future in doubt.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  5. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here (w/ video)

    The Heater


    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, it better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher it can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]