Two Ontario women dead in Florida church parking lot accident

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:32 PM ET

SARNIA, Ont. — Two Ontario women were killed, and two other Ontario seniors hurt, when an SUV crashed into a crowd Sunday at a Snowbirds trailer park in Florida.

The mayhem at a church parking lot in Bradenton — in all, three people died and four were injured — was only filtering back Tuesday to southwestern Ontario’s immigrant Dutch community, to which those affected were linked through the Christian Reformed church.

Margaret Vanderlaan, 72, of Port Lambton, and Wilhemina Paul, 72, of Hamilton, were killed. A woman from the Netherlands, Johanna Dijkhoff, 80, also died.

Two of the four people injured included 68-year-old Nely Depooter of Port Lambton and Fred Eringa, 89, of Woodstock.

Vanderlaan and her husband, John, had wintered at the Sugar Creek Country Club, where the crash occurred, for years, said their son Lauren, 44, who remembered her love of family and community.

“She loved being with her grandkids,” Vanderlaan said Tuesday. “She was the type of grandmother you could leave the kids there for a week and she would take care of them. She just loved that and ate that up.”

Florida reports say a 79-year-old woman was backing her SUV out of her parking lot at the moible home park when she lost control, backing over the pedestrians and winding up in a small canal.

Vanderlaan, a grandmother to 15, was an active member of the Wallaceburg Christian Reformed Church, where she helped co-ordinate its senior’s group, said Lauren.

The family had just celebrated Vanderlaan’s birthday Jan. 3, before she and her husband left for the south.

Depooter, the Port Lambton woman injured, had stopped in Bradenton with her husband to visit the Vanderlaans on their way back from a cruise, said son Kevin Depooter.

His mom was struck in the hip and head as the vehicle went by, he said. She was taken to hospital and put on a ventilator.

“As far as I know, she’s starting to come around,” he said. “We’re hoping she can come home soon.”

Vanderlaan’s father was standing feet away when the SUV backed into the people.

“He saw the car going by and he looked and he saw mom’s dress laying there,” Vanderlaan said. His father called her name as he held her.

“Her eyes were open, so he kind of held his hands over her so the sun wouldn’t be in her eyes and he kept talking to her,” their son said.

The driver, 79-year-old Doreen Landstra, will likely be cited for improperly backing the vehicle, said Trooper Ken Watson of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Landstra, from Michigan, told police she recalls pressing on the gas as she backed up, then going faster than expected, Watson said. It’s possible she panicked and mistook the gas pedal for the brake, he said.

“There (are) a lot of people that have the sentiment that she’s a victim in this too,” Watson said. “She feels horrible for what she’s done.”


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