Police: 3 women killed by SUV in gruesome NY crash

August 10, 2011 - 2:30 PM
Pedestrians Killed

A law enforcement official photographs a vehicle in front of St. Matthews Roman Catholic Church in Voorheesville, N.Y., where three pedestrians were killed, on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011. Acting Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said a 57-year-old woman was driving the van when it accelerated off the road and hit the group at about 8:30 a.m. outside St. Matthew's Roman Catholic Church in Voorheesville, an Albany suburb. He said the driver's foot or a flip-flop she was wearing apparently interfered with the van's gas pedal. The driver was being treated at Albany Medical Center for injuries that weren't life-threatening. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

VOORHEESVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — An out-of-control SUV, its driver's foot possibly stuck on the gas pedal, drove onto a sidewalk Wednesday morning and killed three elderly women in a walking group before crashing into a church, police said.

The driver, 55-year-old Luann Burgess, had just dropped off a foster child at a nearby elementary school summer program. At about 8:30 a.m., as she returned along the route she drove every day, the SUV accelerated off the road near St. Matthew's Roman Catholic Church, acting Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said.

Burgess' foot or a flip-flop she was wearing apparently interfered with the gas pedal, he said.

The 2007 Toyota Highlander ran through part of a parking lot and hit the women as they waited near the church for a companion, authorities said. The SUV continued 70 or 80 feet, dragging two bodies as it ran under a covered church entryway, smashed iron railings and crashed into the brick wall of the bell tower.

Apple, a 24-year veteran in law enforcement, described the accident in the picturesque village as "horrific" and "the most gruesome" he has witnessed.

Hours after the accident, the victims' six sneakers lay under a bush where a floppy hat hung from a branch.

Burgess was being treated at Albany Medical Center for injuries that weren't life-threatening. None of the congregants in the church for morning Mass was hurt.

District Attorney David Soares said at the scene that it was too early to say whether the driver would be charged.

The three women were part of a group of 40 or 50 who were on a 5-kilometer guided walk organized by the Empire State Capital Volkssporters, which sponsors outings in the Albany-Troy-Schenectady area.

The victims were 76-year-old Carol Lansing, of Green Island, and 79-year-old Rosemarie Hume and 81-year-old Fran Pallozzi, both of Waterford.

Michael and Kazzy Gainor, longtime village residents, said the neighborhood where the accident happened is popular with walkers, runners and cyclists because it's not heavily traveled, especially on weekday mornings after most people have headed off to jobs in Albany.

"This is a great community for walking and other activities," Kazzy Gainor said.