A judge on Wednesday suspended the license of an elderly woman who killed three people when she accidentally backed into a crowd gathered outside a Bradenton church in February.
John Paul remembers the scene vividly.
Church had just ended at the Sugar Creek Country Club on the morning of February 2, 2014. Locals and snowbirds were gathered outside saying goodbye to each other when tragedy struck.
"I had just walked away and then I heard the crash and the screaming," said Paul, who is from Canada and had attended church that day with his wife, Wilhemina.
79-year-old Doreene Landstra lost control of her SUV. She sped backwards, slammed into a group of people and then crashed into a canal.
“I ran back, and I didn't even realize my wife was laying on the ground ‘til somebody called me over," he said.
His 71-year-old wife was in bad shape.
"I thought she would be okay, but when she got to the hospital, she died,” said Paul.
The couple had recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
Two other women died from injuries they suffered in the accident, Margaret Vanderlaan, age 72, and Johanna Dijkhoff, age 80.
Exactly two months after the deadly accident, Landstra appeared before a judge and pleaded "no contest" to a non-criminal citation.
The judge ordered Landstra's Michigan driver's license suspended for a year. He told her she'll have to take a basic driver's course to get it back. He also fined Landstra $1,000.
John Paul went to the hearing to see what would happen to the woman who killed his wife.
"I'm just shocked at that minimum amount of charges that they have here,” he said. "In Canada, she would've been charged with manslaughter."
He knows it was an accident.
"She didn't mean to do it. And I forgive her, I'm not angry at her,” said Paul.
“Some people are angry, but I encourage everybody to get over the anger and just forgive… she didn’t mean to do it.”
He added, "Because of my love for Jesus, I'm doing ok."
Landstra’s pastor, Gerrit Koedoot, said the community as a whole is beginning to heal and many have reached out to her to offer support, because she is suffering too.
During the court hearing Wednesday, Landstra's attorney told the judge that she has civil proceedings pending in connection with the accident.
Neither Landstra nor her attorney spoke to the media.
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