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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 11, 2011

Three walkers killed when SUV crashed into church

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — Three women died in front of St. Matthew’s Church yesterday morning when a sport utility vehicle crashed through the building’s portico.

Carol Lansing, 66, of Green Island; Rosemarie Hume, 79, of Waterford; and Frances Pallozzi, 81, also of Waterford were gathered near the church on Mountainview Street with a few dozen other members of the Empire State Capital Volkssporters at about 8:30 in the morning, according to the Sheriff’s department.  Some members of the group were using the church’s bathroom before setting out for their scheduled walk through Voorheesville.

A few minutes later, having dropped off a foster child at a summer program, Luann Burgess, 55, of Voorheesville, lost control of her 2007 Toyota Highlander and crashed into the building, according to acting Sherriff Craig Apple.  Burgess was driving east on Mountainview when she went off the road and onto the sidewalk.  She was likely going about 30 miles an hour, the posted limit, since there were no marks to indicate braking and it looked like the vehicle hit the building at that speed, Apple said.  One of the women was struck and thrown a short distance and the other two were dragged, he said.  All three were pronounced dead at the scene.  Apple described it as “extremely gruesome.”  He also said that the sheriff’s department has had some serious cases to deal with recently, including a fatal plane crash in Berne, and he was concerned about the effect on his deputies.

Burgess’s flip-flop sandal got caught on the gas pedal, according to Apple, who said the investigation is ongoing.  Alcohol does not appear to have been a factor, but police are waiting for the returns of a toxicology report, he said.  Police will further interview Burgess and meet with the district attorney’s office before deciding whether or not to pursue charges, Apple said.

The church is just a few suburban streets away from Burgess’s modest home at 214 Deerfield Court in the Salem Hills development.  She was taken to the Albany Medical Center Hospital with non-life threatening injuries, Apple said.


Every Wednesday from May to August, the volkssporters meet in a different community around the Capital Region to take a planned walk, which often includes historic sights and pleasant scenery.  Begun 24 years ago, the area group is affiliated with the national American Volkssport Association, said the group’s president, Lea Darling.

Volkssporting was brought to America in the 1940s from Germany by returning servicemen, Darling said.  The idea is that people get together to walk and take a closer look at communities, she said.  The organization’s motto is “Fun, fitness, friendship.”

The area group has more than 30 walking routes in communities around the region, including Voorheesville, Altamont, Thacher park, Albany, Schenectady, Troy, and Saratoga, Darling said.  There is a committee that develops new walks for the group, which has about 300 members.

Quite a few of the members are in their 70s and 80s, Darling said, explaining that they are an inspiration.  “They’re the backbone of the group,” she said.

Of the accident, she said, “We’re just numb.”

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