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New Scotland Archives

After crash kills three walkers, police investigate and parishioners hold Mass

By Saranac Hale Spencer and Jo E. Prout

VOORHEESVILLE — The SUV that killed three women in front of St. Matthew’s Church last week gained seven miles per hour in the five seconds before hitting them, according to information the Albany County Sheriff’s Department recovered from a black box in the 2007 Toyota Highlander that records information.

The sport utility vehicle did not suffer from the mechanical problems in the gas pedal that Toyota has been sued for recently, according to acting Sheriff Craig Apple.

Luann Burgess, 55, was driving toward the Salem Hills housing development, where she lives, on Mountainview Street after dropping off her foster child at a summer program at about 8:30 a.m.

The road has a posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour and five seconds before the first impact, assumed to be the three women, Burgess was traveling at 39 miles per hour, according to information gathered from the box, Apple said. At the point of impact, she was going 46 miles per hour, he said, and then the car slowed to 25 miles per hour before a second impact, assumed to be the brick bell tower where the vehicle stopped.

There was no braking, Apple said. Burgess told police that the flip-flop sandal she was wearing, borrowed from her husband, had gotten stuck in the area of the gas and brake peddles.  “She’s saying it was stuck.  It very well could have been,” Apple said yesterday.

Police are awaiting the return of a toxicology report before discussing with the district attorney’s office whether or not to bring charges against Burgess.  The report is expected to show if she was under the influence of prescription medication. Alcohol is not suspected, Apple said, but she may have taken painkillers for her broken arm.

Memorial Mass

As police continued their investigation this week, family and friends of the slain women sought solace at the church where they were killed. They gathered there Sunday to celebrate Mass with local parishioners.

Carol Lansing, Rosemarie Hume, and Frances Palozzi were part of the Empire State Capital Volkssporters, a walking group that met at the church to use the restrooms before beginning a tour around the village.

All three of the women were active in their Catholic churches, and devoted to their families and their communities.

Carol Lansing, a native of Green Island, 66, graduated from Heatly High School and worked at the former Bendix Corporation there before staying home to raise her children. She then worked for almost two decades in the admissions office of Russell Sage College in Troy, according to her obituary. Active in her church and community, she served as a village trustee since 2006, secretary of the Green Island Industrial Agency, treasurer of the Green Island Senior Citizens Club and the Green Island Senior Housing, and was a former member of the Green Island board of education.

Rosemarie Hume, 79, of Waterford, who was born in Brooklyn, worked for 15 years at the Waterford-Halfmoon School, retiring two decades ago. She was, according to her obituary, a member of the Cohoes Community Center and was an active communicant of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Waterford. She liked gardening and traveling and spending time with her family.

Francis Palozzi, 81, was a lifelong Waterford resident, graduating from Waterford High School as valedictorian in 1948. A certified credentialist, she worked for five years at St. Peter’s Hospital retiring in 1999; before that, according to her obituary, she worked at St. Mary’s Hospital for 15 years and in her earlier years she was employed at New York Telephone Company and had taught nursery school. She was a communicant of St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Waterford and a 50-year member of the church choir. She loved biking, walking, cross-country skiing, Curves, and zumba, and she did volunteer work for many organizations.

At St. Matthew’s Church on Sunday, all evidence of the crash was gone as parishioners entered the vestibule through the front portico that was the site of the accident. Flowers placed outside the church and television cameramen on the sidewalk were the only signs of the tragedy.

Reverend Thomas Chevalier, pastor of St. Matthew’s Church, welcomed the women’s families and friends.

Chevalier spoke of “thin” places in Celtic spirituality, places where this earth and heaven come together. As Mount Sinai was for Moses a thin place to speak to God, so St. Matthew’s is a thin place for its parishioners, Chevalier said. For Lansing, Hume, and Palozzi, St. Matthew’s became a thin place for them, he said, allowing them to leave this life and enter the life for which Christians strive.

Chevalier invited the families to the altar to enter the names of Lansing, Hume, and Palozzi into the parish’s memorial book, so that the women can be remembered here in prayer each year.

The families were given memorial crosses for each woman, and they processed with Chevalier to the rear of the church to hang the crosses near the baptismal font. Cameras and reporters swarmed around the families there, and one man elbowed a cameraman, who moved back a few inches.

St. Matthew’s held a small reception for the families after the service.

The Altamont Enterprise, August 18, 2011

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