EMT Charged in Fatal Crash Fired Under Zero Tolerance Policy


Karen Kane | | Monday, November 12, 2007

PITTSBURGH, Penn.-- A Butler County, Pa., ambulance driver who is charged with drunken driving and causing a fatal collision while on the job will be fired from the Cranberry Ambulance Company, a supervisor said.

Lynn Bourchier said Shanea Leigh Climo, 22, of Evans City, will soon be given notice that she will no longer be working as an emergency medical technician there -- a position she had held since December 2006.

Regardless of the criminal charges against her, we have a zero-tolerance policy. We cannot drink any alcohol 12 hours prior to the start of your shift. Any measurable alcohol level is unacceptable, regardless of the legal standards [for drunken driving,] said Ms. Bourchier, ambulance company supervisor and director of the business office.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. announced Nov. 5 that Ms. Climo was being charged with two counts of homicide by vehicle and two counts of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, as well as more than a dozen lesser charges in connection with the Sept. 23 double-fatal accident at the intersection of Route 19 and Brush Creek Road in Marshall.

Mr. Zappala said Ms. Climo was drunk and speeding when she drove her ambulance through a red light and slammed it into a car, in which there were two passengers who died: driver Douglass Stitt, 38, of Mercer, and his passenger, Phillip Bacon, 32, of Sharpsville. Her passenger, a man in his 90s who later died from heart problems unrelated to the accident, was being transported at the time of the 2:20 a.m. crash.

Both Ms. Climo and a paramedic were injured but not seriously.

The crash was investigated by reconstructionists from the Northern Regional Police who determined that Ms. Climo had been traveling at about 70 mph in a 40 mph zone on Route 19 and had not activated her siren until about 2 seconds before the crash. The district attorney said the nature of the ambulance transport did not require Ms. Climo to exceed the speed limit.

Mr. Zappala said Ms. Climo had a blood alcohol level of about 0.092 when the crash happened, though the number registered at 0.07 at Allegheny General Hospital about an hour after the crash, which is just under the state s 0.08 threshold for drunken driving. Police determined her level was at 0.092 at the time of the crash.

Authorities have indicated they do not believe Ms. Climo had been drinking while working.

But, Ms. Bourchier said it s irrelevant because Ms. Climo broke the rules about consuming alcohol within 12 hours of the start of a shift.

She called the accident tragic and said that it was devastating for the families as well as for the ambulance company.

It is routine to check for criminal backgrounds of its employees, valid drivers licenses, and to require a special driving course for any personnel who will be operating ambulances. Ms. Climo had had a clean criminal record and a valid license, Ms. Bourchier said.

Cranberry Manager Jerry Andree said that, while the ambulance company is neither operated nor controlled by the township, he will be monitoring how things unfold.

They serve as our designated emergency medical service provider. ... We will be closely reviewing the details of the incident to be sure we have a thorough understanding of what occurred. We have had no previous concerns about the promptness and professionalism of their service, he said.

Karen Kane can be reached at kkane@post-gazette.com or 724-772-9180.

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