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Elderly Driver Kills 3, Injures 4

Three people are dead and four others have been hospitalized after a 79-year-old woman backed her SUV into a group of people Sunday outside a Bradenton clubhouse, authorities said.

The crash happened outside the Sugar Creek Country Club at 11:20 a.m. Residents had gathered for church services inside the building, which is located in a mobile home community for retirees, Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Gregory Bueno said.

Doreen Landstra, of Palmetto, was backing her 2009 Chevrolet SUV out of a parking spot and pulled forward in order to clear another parked vehicle. When she started backing out again, she struck seven pedestrians who were standing in the parking lot, troopers said.

Landstra continued in reverse over a curb before colliding with several small trees and rolling into a canal, where the SUV was partially submerged, troopers said.

Killed were Margaret Vanderlaan, 72, of Bradenton, Wilhemina Paul, 70, of Bradenton and Johanna Dijkhoff, 80, of Bradenton.

Four others were seriously injured: Nelly Depooter, 67, of Ontario, Canada, Nellie Alice Vlasma, 75, of Bradenton, Fred Eringa, 89, of Bradenton and Michael Claus, 71, of Bradenton, troopers said.

Landstra was not injured.

“It’s a tragic, tragic situation,” Bueno said. “Every time something like this occurs it breaks your heart.”

Sugar Creek Estates resident and retired EMT Muriel Watts 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.

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

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