Bradenton woman kills 3 as she leaves church gathering - WFLA News Channel 8

Bradenton woman kills 3 as she leaves church gathering

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Scene of deadly accident at Sugar Creek Country Club in Bradenton Scene of deadly accident at Sugar Creek Country Club in Bradenton
Flowers left at site of Bradenton accident where a woman killed three after a church gathering Sunday. Flowers left at site of Bradenton accident where a woman killed three after a church gathering Sunday.
Location where SUV plunged into creek in Bradenton Location where SUV plunged into creek in Bradenton
BRADENTON, FL (WFLA) - An elderly Bradenton woman will have to face a judge after accidentally plowing her car into a group of people outside of church.

State troopers say 79-year-old Doreen Landstra lost control of her SUV at the Sugar Creek Country Club late Sunday morning.

Officials say its unlikely she will face criminal charges since the victims were her friends, but she will likely be issued a fine and she could lose her license for life.

"Obviously there was no intent at this time, we do not believe there was drugs or alcohol in her system," said Trooper Kenn Watson with the Florida Highway Patrol.

Landstra was issued a non-criminal infraction for improper backing.

72-year-old Margaret Vanderlaan, 70-year-old Wilhemina Paul, and 80-year-old Johanna Dijkhoff were killed.

"Unbelievable," said Kathy Baker, a witness.  "You see it on TV. You see catastrophes on TV, bodies laying around, and that was the instant, oh my God, look at this, it was here, where we are."

Four other people were taken to local hospitals in serious condition.

"[One of the victims] had a tire mark from his ankle, all the way up to his hip, all the way up to here. It was a tire. He was run over," said witness Muriel Watts.

One day later, the community is in mourning. Flags are at half staff and flowers mark the tragic site.

The case is still ongoing, but it does not appear that Landstra will face criminal charges.  She will be required to go to court, where she will likely face a fine, and possibly have her license permanently revoked.

Officials say the SUV was in good working condition.

This story begs the question- when is someone too old to drive?  Ultimately, there is no clear answer. Officials say it all depends on the individual.  There are plenty of warning signs, and there are resources available if you are worried about a family member.

"There is no magic age where all of a sudden it becomes more difficult to drive," said Trooper Watson.

Watson says it's a tough topic that all elderly drivers must face some day.

"When you can no longer successfully check your blind spots. In other words you 100% rely on your mirrors," Watson said.  "There's too many blind spots in cars where you do not turn your head to check, you could cut somebody off, you could hit a small child, you could even run yourself off the road."

In Florida, once you hit age 80, you are required to have an eye exam.  After that, you must get your license renewed every six years.

Watson says if you have elderly relatives who drive, you should talk to them if you have worries.  Keep an eye out for unusual dings or car damage.  In the end, it's the responsibility of the elderly driver and their family to decide when to put down the keys.

"I understand this is a quality of life issue, however we do not want to endanger our friends or our neighbors by allowing them to continue to drive," said Watson.

In some cases, you may be worried about the safety of an elderly neighbor or relative who drives but you might feel too uncomfortable to tell them.

There is a medical report form you can fill out, where you can remain anonymous.  The Florida Department of Transportation will conduct an exam with the driver to see if they're safe enough to drive.

The department will conduct an investigation into the driver, and if concerns are shown, the driver must provide medical information from a physician.

Then the department will study the physician's report, and officials could recommend they retake their driving test, or have their license denied.

Again, if you fill it out, you remain anonymous, and it could prevent other people from getting hurt.

We have posted a link to the form under Links Mentioned.




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