Florida Vacation Turns to Nightmare for Snowbirds

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Several members of Christian Reformed churches in Ontario were killed or seriously injured in a bizarre accident on February 2 at Sugar Creek Estates mobile home park in Bradenton, Fla.

Margaret Vanderlaan, 72, of Wallaceburg (Ontario) CRC, Wilhemina Paul, 70, of Ancaster (Ontario) CRC, and Johanna Dijkhoff of the Netherlands were killed when a visitor from a nearby park lost control of her vehicle.

Vanderlaan, Paul, and a group of others had been chatting in the parking lot of the clubhouse where their winter congregation, Sugar Creek Community Church, had just worshiped.

Doreen Landstra, of Palmetto, Fla., backed up her SUV, then apparently thought she had shifted the vehicle into “drive” and accelerated. The SUV “suddenly accelerated in reverse and with so much power” that it plowed over the conversation circle in “a couple of seconds,” said Rev. Gerrit Koedoot, a member of Ferrysburg Community CRC in Spring Lake, Mich. He pastors the snowbird congregation. “I was right in front of it—she just missed me by a couple of feet,” he said. The car hit a tree and landed in a creek. The driver and her husband (in the passenger seat) were uninjured.

Taken to hospital were Fred Eringa, 89, of Maranatha CRC, Woodstock, Ontario; Mike Claus, 71, of Hebron CRC, Whitby, Ontario; Nelly DePooter, 68, of Port Lambton, Ontario; and Nellie Ann Vlasma, 75, of the Netherlands. Eringa was released with minor injuries; the others remain in hospital at the time of this writing.

“For the two husbands who lost their wives this is like a nightmare, very sad,” said Koedoot. “We ask everyone in the CRC community to be in prayer for us. When you’re in a place that everyone calls paradise and something like this happens, it’s a double whammy.” The victims’ husbands, John Vanderlaan and John Paul, were witnesses of the accident.

Koedoot has been biking around the mobile home park—which has about 850 homes—to visit grieving family members. “Everybody here has been affected by it, everybody,” he said.

Rev. Ron Fisher, a former pastor of Hebron CRC in Whitby, Ontario, has been visiting with those who were injured.

“We’re all having nightmares about it,” Fisher said, but added, “This is a wonderful Christian community. It’s wonderful to see all the love pouring out, including to the kids and grandkids that have come because of loved ones lost.”

About the Author

Roxanne Van Farowe is a freelance writer.

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It was horrific!  There will be light in this darkness.  I know there is hope.

 

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