Word of a terrible accident in the tiny village of Voorheesville spread quickly, and nearly the entire community is still in shock over news that three women lost their lives on Mountainview Street this morning.
At around 8:45a.m. twisted metal, evidence markers and law enforcement officers covered the front lawn and parking lot of St. Matthew’s Church.
Albany County Sheriff’s Department investigators say 55-year-old Luann Burgess had just dropped her foster child off at Voorheesville Elementary School and was driving down Mountainview Street when she lost control of her S.U.V. and accelerated as she drove right into the group of women gathered in front of St. Matthew’s.
Even seasoned law enforcement said the scene in front of the church on the beautiful, summer Wednesday morning was nothing short of horrific.
Acting Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said, “It's probably one of the most gruesome scenes I've seen in 24 years. It is the most gruesome scene.”
Mike Fields lives across the street, and was home in the cellar at the time of the crash.
Fields said, “I heard a thump, and I could actually hear it. At first I thought it was a dumpster being dropped at the Mobil Station, but then later on when I came up I saw all of these people outside, and I actually heard the sirens.”
The victims have been identified as 79-year-old Rose Marie Hume and 81-year-old Fran Polozzi of Waterford, and 66-year-old Carol Lansing of Green Island.
Witnesses say each of the women were in town for a walk with an outdoors club.
St. Matthew’s was also holding an 8:30 mass at the same time.
Even church members who weren’t there during the crash are shaken by the gravity of what happened.
St. Matthew’s Parishioner Kathy Creed said, “I know people were at the 8:30 mass. I know a friend of mine, her mother, was at the mass, and everyone is in shock. It’s awful. You know, you feel bad for the families. The family of the driver too.”
As for how Burgess lost control, she told investigators her flip flop fell off while she was driving.
It's not yet clear if it was stuck under the gas pedal, or if she had been bending down to get it at the time of the crash.
No cause has been determined, and no charges have been filed, but an official close to the investigation says authorities are specifically checking to see the driver took hydrocodone and Xanex before she got behind the wheel.
Burgess is still being treated at Albany Med for non-life-threatening injuries.
The tragic accident unfolded around 8:40 this morning. Investigators say 55-year-old Luann Burgess just dropped her foster child off at Voorheesville Elementary School and was headed down Mountain View Street when she lost control of her SUV and accelerated into a group of elderly women gathered in front of St. Matthews Church.
"One person had just walked away from the group to go into the church to use the bathroom," says Acting Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. "The minute she grabbed the door the vehicle came flying by."
Three women were hit and killed instantly, one thrown behind a nearby bush and the two others dragged with the SUV as it plowed through the vestibule, coming to a stop at the church's bell tower.
"It's probably one of the most gruesome scenes I've seen in 24 years," Apple says. "It is the most gruesome scene."
The victims have been identified as 79-year-old Rose Marie Hume and 81-year-old Fran Polozzi of Waterford, and 66-year-old Carol Lansing of Green Island. They were all in town for a walk with an outdoors club. Mass was also being held at the same time and investigators say a number of witnesses called the crash in.
As for how Burgess lost control- she told investigators her flip flop fell off while she was driving. It's not yet clear if it was stuck under the gas pedal or if she had been bending down to get it at the time of the crash. She was taken to albany med and treated for her injuries.
Those passing by today looked on in disbelief as investigators gathered evidence from the scene.
"Pretty upsetting," says Gerard Stapf, who lives nearby. "This is a small town and you don't expect anything like this to happen so close."
"Just shock at something that is so unexpected," says Mayor Bob Conway. "I think it's going to take a while for people to come to grips with what happened here."