CRIME
04/09/2014 11:27 am ET Updated Apr 09, 2014

'Stop Driving,' Says Daughter Of Woman Killed By Elderly Driver

Corinne Dykstra

As Easter approaches, 51-year-old Corinne Dykstra wonders aloud what her family plans will be.

Dykstra, 51, who lives in Ontario, Canada, recalls the times her 72-year-old mother, Margaret Vanderlaan, visited and made the holidays special.

"We got together frequently. It's what made us a really close-knit family," Dykstra said. "My mother was very much involved in our lives. Almost every week she would call all of us, all four of her children, to talk."

It was Vanderlaan who brought her children and grandchildren together for family feasts. Dykstra recalls her mom Skyping in from Florida to read bedtime stories, and how Vanderlaan would often prod her own children to go on vacation so she could spend special grandma time with the little ones.

Now, Dykstra wonders how her widowed father will cope.

Margaret Vanderlaan was one of three people killed in Bradenton, Fla. in February when 79-year-old Doreen Landstra accidentally hit the accelerator on her SUV, running over a crowd of elderly retirement community members leaving church.

Last Wednesday, Landstra received a maximum sentence that included a $1,000 fine and a one-year suspension of her license. Next year, Landstra will be able to take a driving test to obtain a license again.

Dykstra told The Huffington Post that she's reeling from a sentencing that could put an unsafe driver back on the road. Dykstra said she doesn't want Landstra to face jail time, but thinks she should voluntarily give up her license.

Doreen Landstra

"I don't wish her ill, because I’m sure she's living in her own hell right now," Dykstra said. "But I really think that she should stop driving."

The day of the tragedy, Vanderlaan, 80-year-old Johanna Dijkhoff and 70-year-old Wilhemina Paul were chatting with friends about the day's community church service as Landstra attempted to back her car out of a parking space.

Witnesses described seeing a man helping to direct Landstra out of the space before she hit the accelerator, running over seven people and crashing the vehicle.

John Vanderlaan, 77, was there the day his wife died. With his children separated from him by distance, Vanderlaan has stayed in that same Florida retirement community, where he is able to grieve with close friends who also lost loved ones that day.

John and Margaret Vanderlaan would have been married for 52 years in May. Dykstra said that John recently asked one of his daughters what the point of living was anymore.

"He's still in disbelief that she's not coming back," Dykstra said. "He's still having a rough time with all of this."

Dykstra said that although she is looking forward to seeing her father when he visits for Easter, she's worried it will only exacerbate his still-raw grief.

"Where he's at in that community, they're all grieving, and they are all retired and visit with each other," she said. "When he comes back home, I think it's going to hit him really hard that Mom's not coming back."

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This isn't the first time Landstra has been involved in a car accident. In 2011, The Brandenton Herald reported that Landstra crashed her car into the lobby of a Michigan McDonald's after mistaking the gas pedal for the brake.

"Now she's killed three people," Dykstra said. "I think the greatest apology she could give to all these families is to take herself off the road. And if that doesn't happen, I really would like to see the family members step up and take her keys from her."

The Huffington Post reached out to Landstra to ask if she would pursue getting her license after her yearlong suspension was over.

"It's up in the air, who knows," Landstra said.

When asked to elaborate, or if she had anything else to say, Landstra declined to comment further.

Landstra's son Joel could not be reached for comment.

"I get that when you get to be a certain age and you don't have your license, your independence is gone," Dykstra said. "I understand that. But now, because of her mistake, three lives have been taken. I just look at my grief and remember that I'm just one child of one of those victims."

Landstra directed a church choir that Vanderlaan sang in. The day of the accident, the two women sang the same song together: "I Bowed On My Knees And Cried Holy."

Dykstra said she has been too wrapped up in her own grief to think much about forgiving Landstra, but added that "we are called to forgive."

She sighed deeply, seeming to reflect for a moment.

"I wish I had told my mom I appreciated her more," she said. "She knows that I loved her, I told her that all the time, but all of these little things that she did, I wish I would have said that more to her, you know? Just cherish life, cherish your family members. It can be stripped away from you so quickly, and it's gone."

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