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Ambulance Driver Asks for Forgiveness for Fatal Crash

PITTSBURGH -- The ambulance driver who killed two men in a car crash asked the victims' families for forgiveness yesterday as she was sentenced to jail time.

"I hope someday you can forgive me," Shanea Leigh Climo told the families of victims Douglas Stitt, 38, of Mercer, and Phillip Bacon, 32, of Sharpsville, Mercer County. "But first I have to forgive myself, and I have a long way to go."

Wearing a pink-and-white sweater with her hair in a ponytail, Ms. Climo, 23, of Evans City, was handcuffed and taken to the Allegheny County Jail, where she will serve 111/2 to 23 months as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

In addition to the jail time, Common Pleas Judge Randal B. Todd sentenced Ms. Climo to five years of probation and ordered her not to drive an emergency vehicle during that time. Ms. Climo pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter, among other charges, in December.

On Sept. 23, 2007, Ms. Climo was speeding down Route 19 in Marshall, taking a patient to the hospital, and ran a red light as a Chevrolet Cavalier driven by Mr. Stitt, with Mr. Bacon in the passenger's seat, pulled out in front of the ambulance.

Ms. Climo had been drinking earlier in the day, and Deputy District Attorney Bruce Beemer presented testimony at a preliminary hearing that she was legally intoxicated at the time of the accident, though her blood-alcohol level was later recorded as 0.07.

According to a video recording from inside the ambulance, she had her lights on but did not activate her siren until just before impact.

Ms. Climo's attorney, Stephen Misko, said she has completed nursing school since the accident and plans on pursuing that career when she is released from jail. By pleading guilty to only misdemeanors, Mr. Misko said, Ms. Climo will be able to seek jobs that don't automatically bar convicted felons.

In addition to her spoken plea for forgiveness, Ms. Climo gave a letter and DVD containing songs she thought were appropriate to the two victims' families.

Family members said they felt the gestures were sincere, but they did little to heal their wounds.

"She wants me to e-mail her while she's in jail," said Mr. Bacon's mother, Deborah Bacon, 54, of Sharpsville.

"That's not going to happen."

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