Here’s how to help tornado relief efforts in the Triad

Woman, 79, kills 3 while backing out of church parking space

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

image2BRADENTON, Fla. -- 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.


  • angel

    Why yes, yes I do, if it were a younger person they just might have, come on really??? Across the parking lot, over a curve and into the water…..killing 3, someone knew she shouldn’t have been driving….My dad is 63 fell asleep driving on our block and hit a mailbox, he will never drive again as long as I LIVE, My insurance basis what they charge me by the accidents in Florida and how much they have to pay out for those ( Been with Nationwide Ins for over 15 years)…rates going up for the 3rd time in a row, Seniors are the safest drivers my butt, that’s what they tell you when they want to keep driving.

  • Rachel

    I think there should be a law in place that requires seniors of a certain age to re-take a behind-the-wheel test once a year. It’s for not only their safety and the safety of others. I know this was an accident but the mind is less focused the older we get. I’m terrified that my 90 year old grandfather still drives because I’ve watched him blow through stop signs and lights. It’s not on purpose but it’s because he’s old and his mind doesn’t function quite the same. Just all opinion.

    • angel

      If he is that dangerous behind the wheel shouldn’t the family step in and say hey we are taking your car you are dangerous???? Why still let him drive???

      • RachH

        “Why still let him drive???” Angel, what makes you think Rachel or anyone else has any control over what her grandfather is allowed to do? You’re making a very big assumption….

      • Katie

        Yes, it is always the family’s responsibility to step in when the elderly become unsafe behind the wheel. I’m sure there are plenty of elderly people in denial about their driving ability and it is extremely unsafe!!! I vote for yearly driving exams over the age of 70. I know a lot of people who would vote on this issue.

      • RachH

        Katie, it is the family’s responsibility to step in and do what, exactly? If I have no legal power over what an elderly relative is allowed to do, and that person refuses to stop driving, please tell me exactly how I am supposed to force him or her to stop driving?

    • lucestool

      I agree Rachel! We need more laws! For goodness sake, we can’t make decisions on our own! We need more government. Period.

    • James

      The woman made a terrible mistake. She totally could have passed a driving test the day before and could still make a mistake the next day. More tests will do nothing to prevent cases like this one.

    • lucestool

      Me too! for goodness sake! and there are so many crappy drivers who are on their iPhones and whatnot texting and surfing the web on the road…. we need to come up with laws for them, too. Oh, wait, we have laws about texting on the road. but no one is listening! more government is the answer. Period!

  • j

    I agree Rachel! I had an elderly lady hit me and my child several years ago. It was a red light for her and I stepped off the curb to walk across the street and as I got right in front of her car with my son in his stroller, she decides to make a right turn…I was being knocked off my feet and dragging the stroller up on the hood with me.She still didn’t notice! Even as I was pounding on the hood and screaming at her to stop while I am laying across the front of her car with my toddler. Finally, her equally elderly female companion noticed and brought it to her attention.She stopped enough for me to get off her car and cross the street but she didn’t bother to stop to see if we were alright. Ever since then , its something I worry about with the elderly. Its scary.

  • Angela

    I’d like to know when the last time she had her vision checked. I’d be worried that she was driving when she should have been declared by a Dr. to be legally blind.

    • Katie

      I am more worried about her reaction time. I imagine it decreases significantly over 65+ yrs. But all good suggestions. I have seen some elderly drivers do some terrifying things. Even when I was young, I would kick and scream if my Grandpa had to pick me up from school because his driving was so scary.

  • Tron

    This is why modern medicine is so terrible. Now people are living longer and longer, the earth is overpopulated, and the elderly can still drive. Guess it’s time to institute work camps for geriatrics

  • Rhonda Taylor

    I don’t think its the seniors themselves but all of the legal drugs they get loaded up with by their doctors. Someone posted they took their father’s license at 63? seriously you believe it was age related? People need to step back and look at the real cause. If society is really concerned they need to offer their services to seniors. Not once a week or once a month.

    • Lindsay

      All depends, did the 63 y/o man have dementia or some other debilitating disease?

      At an older age you should have to get your license renewed more frequently and show that you have the vision and skills to be able to drive.

      Some states you only renew every TEN YEARS. A heck of a lot can happen to a person if the last time they renewed they were 70 y/o.

    • David

      The 63 yo could have sleep apnea even. It’s better known, but a frequently used symptom is falling asleep at the wheel. If that WAS the cause, he could get treatment and Dad could be safely driving again.

  • JC (@z1creep)

    I am more worried about the crack heads and drunks than the elderly. The only reason this made national news is the age of the driver. Had it been a head on collision with a drunk it would have never left the county paper.

  • Rose

    Younger people/ teenagers have a bad rep for being wreckless drivers, but what I feel is wreckless is a 79 year old woman in an SUV that doesn’t know the difference between reverse and drive on a car. Chances are, she’s been driving for at least half of a decade and knowing when you’re no longer capable of manuvering a car, it’s probably a safe bet you’re going to hurt someone. It’s a double standard; And it’s nauseating. Take away her license. After that, I don’t care what you do with her.

    • JT

      I’m with you, Rose. Personally, I think the test ought to be administered yearly for anyone over a certain age (similar to what they do with novice drivers). In addition, the insurance companies should get involved. Rates for new drivers are astronomically high. Why? It covers them when they do something stupid, but it is also a subtle way to keep them from driving because they cannot afford the rates. Same with the elderly–their car insurance premiums should be similar to that (or more, I’ll argue) of a 17 year old’s. If they cannot afford to drive, they cannot mow down people in the parking lot.

  • Mary Zalaznik

    So what do you think about this 19 year old that killed a fireman in auto accident, don’t let anyone 19 drive either?

    HIGH POINT, N.C. — A member of the High Point Fire Department was killed Sunday in a hit-and-run accident, officials confirmed Monday.
    Fire Chief Tommy Reid said Fire Equipment Operator Todd Martinez died Sunday night at Moses Cone Hospital.
    Reid said he died following complications from a “bicycle and vehicle collision.”

    According to troopers, Andrew B. Barham, 19, of Reidsville, has been charged with felony hit-and-run following the accident.
    The trooper said Martinez was riding his bike on Scalesville Road in Summerfield when he was hit by a truck driven by Barham, who apparently did not see Martinez.
    Barham then fled the scene.
    Reid said Martinez’ wife was cycling with him, but she was ahead of Martinez when he was hit.
    The couple have two boys, ages 12 and 14.
    1555558_584954798247007_906024fasd16_nTroopers were gathering evidence at the scene when an unidentified man arrived and provided information on Barham, which led to his arrest.
    Troopers say Barham was scared and fled to his parents’ house in Summerfield after the accident.
    Troopers do not suspect drunk driving, but more charges may be pending.
    “It is with a heavy (heart) that I have to notify you that FEO Todd Martinez has passed away at Moses Cone Hospital this evening through complications of a bicycle and vehicle collision. Valiant life saving efforts by Summerfield Fire, Guilford EMS, and Moses Cone staff were unsuccessful. Please keep the Martinez family in your thoughts and prayers during this trying time,” Reid wrote.
    Fire Dept. Capt. Denita Lynch confirmed the report to the High Point Enterprise.
    Martinez was the president of the High Point Firefighters Association, according to the paper.
    According to his LinkedIn page, he started working with the High Point Fire Dept. in 1997

    • Lindsay

      Mary, what is appropriate is, once you hit 60 y/o (or even 55 y/o) your license will only be good for 2 or 3 years and you must re-apply, take vision and reaction tests again to show you are capable of driving a car.

      It is not a right to drive a car, it is a privilege and if you can’t show you are capable then you can not drive.

      In SC, you only get your license ever 10 YEARS and you can even renew via the internet. That means they have no clue if you are even capable to be driving, a lot can happen in those 10 years, especially if the last time you got your license renewed was when you were 70 y/o.

    • Ferguson

      Well one stupid 19 year old, or even a hundred stupid 19 year olds, are not having their hearing, sight, reflexes, and God knows what else failing and still going out on the road. THAT’S WHY WE NEED TO TEST SENIOR’S DRIVING EVERY YEAR.

      Believe it or not, if you’re over the age of 65 you are DYING, whether you have 5 years left or 35 years left. Sight, hearing, reflexes, quick decision making are all crucial to driving and all of those traits are going DOWNHILL in seniors.

  • Zippy

    Well, the three that she killed were 70-80 years old, and probably would have driven over others soon anyway. So she really saved several other lives by taking them out.

  • Lindsay

    Too bad they no longer allow god or religion to be in churches, this would have never happened.

    Oh wait, they do.

    In that case, this must have been god’s intention and who are you to judge what god wants?

  • toto hanthala

    For everyone 60+ years, every year should be mandatory drivers licence Driving Test taken…i am 55….our eyes weaken, our reflexes slow, and that is simply the truth…We’ve all seen the oldsters out there,driving like they don’t know what their doing,confused,slow,overwhelmed….If they can’t drive then we should have some type of transportation service….

  • Laine

    Fox8, I posted this link on reddit and it’s completely blown up. If by chance you feel generous from all the extra ad revenue, I’ll gladly accept :D

  • Von

    I feel great sympathy for all involved. Recently a woman in her thirties backed into my son’s car thinking she had it in drive. This situation was a horrible accident that this lady and her family will have to regret the rest of their lives. Say a pray for all of these folks that have lost loved ones and for those trying to recuperate in the hospital.

  • DVR Dave

    Easiest fix in the world… put all the white collar (ie nonviolent or at-risk) prisoners to work waiting on the elderly hand and foot. Beats the hell out of maintaining them at govt. expense.

  • JustMe

    I’ve got to wonder what her actual reverse speed was at impact..Got a 2010 Ford Transit with object sensor that sounds when anything passes behind..Even very low objects like backing up towards a six inch curb and it will sound when I get to within three feet of it..

  • Oldfoxbob

    Well the old driver was a Republican and the people she ran over were all Democrats. She just was enforcing the Obama Death panels she had been lied to about. (sarcasm people)

  • Terence Maguire

    I have experience with what happened here, because it happened to my Aunts and my Dad. It is also a common thread in all of these ‘Elderly Driver’ accidents… it is due to neuropathy in the feet. The elderly shuffle along because their nerves in their legs and feet have lost sensitivity and control due to age, constriction of blood vessels, and diabetes ( doctors told me this). They also have trouble knowing exactly where their feet are in a vehicle.. They think they have moved their foot from the gas to the brake, but they haven’t… and when they press the pedal, the car shoots forward or backwards into a crowd or a building. The elderly drivers all say the same thing: “The gas pedal just stuck”… it didn’t stick, they were jammed down on it, not on the brakes. I don’t like more government, but I seriously believe that drivers over 65 need a yearly physical exam and motor skills test (not a driving test) to see if they are physically capable of controlling a vehicle. One of my Aunts drove her car through a neighbors yard and marooned it on a boulder and said “the gas pedal stuck”.Another said the car just “leaped up on to the sidewalk” almost hitting the storefront… and then she parked it there. My Dad ran his van onto the sidewalk downtown and said (you guessed it) that the gas pedal stuck. We took his keys away.

  • April

    It’s pretty funny how all of you feel you have the right to judge the elderly! If you think they should lose their licenses for being old then lets keep on with the list! How about…teenagers should not have a license they are on top of the list of accidents, or how about the people who speed, or the one who feel the need to text and drive (don’t even pretend that you don’t I see it everyday) or maybe the people that just want to be jerks and ride peoples bumpers even though we are going the speed limit! You all think that their 60 some years of experienced driving isn’t enough and that when they have an accident it’s the worst possible thing that has happened! Just look around at all the crazy and intentional “ACCIDENTS” that happen everyday NOT BY THE ELDERLY! And no I’m not elderly but I was tought to have respect for my elders which is something most of you do not seem to have.

  • Butch

    U.S. law should MANDATE a DRIVING TEST, at least EVERY FIVE YEARS! If you don’t pass, you LOSE YOUR LICENSE until you can!

  • Jayson

    The tobacco pushers would simply tell you that the victims were old and being killed will keep them from burdening the Social Security system and such.

    At least, that’s what they say as their the lethal tobacco drug which they push kills 14,000 addicts and another 1,800 INNOCENT people (who were exposed to TOXIC TOBACCO SMOKE) around the world, EVERY DAY!

Comments are closed.