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Ambulance Driver Faces Trial In Crash that Killed Two

PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- Shanea Leigh Climo, an ambulance driver involved in a collision in Marshall, Pa., that killed two men Sept. 23, was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on 15 charges related to the crash.

The charges against Ms. Climo, 22, of Evans City, include two counts of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence in the deaths of Douglas Stitt, 38, of Mercer, and Phillip Bacon, 32, of Sharpsville.

Police say Ms. Climo ran a red light and struck a car driven by Mr. Stitt as he made a left turn onto Route 19 from Brush Creek Road. Mr. Bacon was a passenger in the car.

Ms. Climo, working the overnight shift for Cranberry Volunteer Ambulance Corp., was not seriously injured, nor was the paramedic in the back of the ambulance or the elderly patient they were transporting.

Ms. Climo's blood-alcohol level, taken at Allegheny General Hospital an hour and 20 minutes after the crash, was 0.07, below the state level of legal intoxication of 0.08. But Assistant District Attorney Bruce Beemer argued that she was legally intoxicated at the time of the crash.

Dr. Gregory Fochtme, a toxicology expert for the prosecution, testified that using the 0.07 reading as a baseline, he extrapolated that Ms. Climo's blood-alcohol content at the time of the crash was between 0.082 and 0.095.

But Ms. Climo's attorney, Stephen Misko, challenged his methodology, getting Dr. Fochtme to admit that if a margin of error for the first test were factored in, the low end of the estimate could drop below the legal limit for intoxication.

William Humes, the paramedic in the back of the ambulance, testified that he did not notice any signs of intoxication in Ms. Climo from the time she arrived for her shift at midnight to the crash at 2:20 a.m.

Northern Regional Police Officer Ken Young, who investigated the crash, testified that Ms. Climo was driving between 50 and 55 mph at the moment of impact, and 68 to 70 mph before she started braking. The speed limit on that section of Route 19 is 40 mph.

Ambulance drivers are instructed to follow speed limits and to come to a brief stop at red lights before rolling through intersections, even during an emergency, Mr. Humes said.

Ms. Climo had the flashing emergency lights on, according to witnesses, but did not turn on the siren until 2.25 seconds before impact, according to a video recording from inside the ambulance.

The video captured Ms. Climo yelling "Oh, my God," and slamming on the brakes 0.75 of a second before impact.

Ms. Climo, who did not testify during the two-hour hearing, is free on bond. Formal arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 1.

Daniel Malloy can be reached at dmalloy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1731.

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