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Pittsburgh-area man sentenced in fatal DUI motorcycle crash

This week's sentencing of a man who caused a motorcycle accident two years ago brought back painful memories for the family of the woman who died in the crash. Although the motorcycle driver lost control of the bike when he encountered a tree limb in the road, authorities said he was driving under the influence of prescription drugs and alcohol at the time.

The motorcycle driver, a 51-year-old man from Bellevue, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle and driving under the influence. He had a blood-alcohol level of .055, but was also on the painkiller hydrocodone at the time, rendering him unfit to drive. When he lost control of the motorcycle, his 35-year-old female passenger was thrown off and killed.

The woman's 11-year-old daughter testified at the man's sentencing hearing, though she couldn't bring herself to read the victim impact statement she'd written about how her mother's death had affected her. A Pittsburgh police officer instead read the statement detailing her memories of the day she lost her mother, from the time the girl wished her a good time to the moment when her grandparents brought her to the hospital to meet with a social worker.

The Allegheny County common pleas judge who sentenced the man said it was "distressing" that he hadn't learned from his previous mistakes. He was convicted of driving under the influence in 2007 and a motorcycle violation in 2009. The man apologized to the court and his lawyer said his client hadn't had a drink since the accident. The man will spend the next six to 12 months incarcerated but could be allowed work release.

Although the motorcycle rider may have learned from his mistake this time, he may still be subject to a wrongful-death suit by the woman's family, who is still clearly feeling the pain of her loss.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Motorcyclist sentenced for DUI in fatal crash," Paula Reed Ward, April 4, 2012

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