VOORHEESVILLE -- They walk for "fun, fitness and friendship," according to the motto of the Empire State Capital Volkssporters.

But on Wednesday, the walking enthusiasts were grief-stricken as they mourned the deaths of three members who were struck and killed by a motorist who lost control of her SUV.

"Everybody is devastated and in shock. Our hearts just go out to the victims and their families," said Lea Darling, president of the group, which was formed in 1987. It is based in Clifton Park and has about 300 members who range in age from their mid-40s to mid-80s.

The group has introduced hundreds of people, mostly seniors, to the joys and camaraderie of brisk, two-hour walks outdoors in all seasons across thousands of miles of back roads in the Capital Region without a fatality or even a serious injury, Darling said.

"Volksmarches" began in Germany in the 1950s and loosely translated means "people walks." An occasional twisted ankle or a stumble resulting in a skinned knee were the extent of injuries in the past 24 years among the group.

Until Wednesday.

"It's just mind-boggling that something like this happened to the club," said Darling, of Burnt Hills, a retired therapist and special education teacher's aide who joined eight years ago. Her husband, Harry, a retired engineer at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, serves as the group's membership chairman.

The all-volunteer organization hosts dozens of 10-kilometer walks year-round through historic villages and along rural roads. Annual dues are $10. The local group is affiliated with the American Volkssport Association, begun in 1979.

Wednesday morning's 10-kilometer walk -- which also offered a 5K alternative -- was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., 20 minutes after the three women were struck and killed instantly while standing outside St. Matthew's Church on Mountainview Street off Route 85A.

Carol Lansing, Rosemarie Hume and Frances C. Pallozzi, could not avoid the 2007 Toyota Highlander driven by LuAnn Burgess, who told Albany County sheriff's deputies the sandal slipped off her right foot and became wedged under the gas pedal.

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