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Published: Tuesday, 5/16/2006

Driver convicted in death of bicyclist on State Rt. 65

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
David O'Neill, entering the courtroom, faces up to 18 years in prison when he is sentenced July 14. He is free on bond. David O'Neill, entering the courtroom, faces up to 18 years in prison when he is sentenced July 14. He is free on bond.
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BOWLING GREEN - A Rossford man who was drunk when he struck two bicyclists, killing one and injuring the other, could face up to 18 years in prison when he is sentenced this summer.

David O'Neill, 61, pleaded no contest yesterday in Wood County Common Pleas Court to aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault, failure to stop after an accident, and operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

Judge Alan Mayberry found him guilty and scheduled sentencing for July 14.

O'Neill, owner of the General's Chop House restaurant in Waterville, was northbound on State Rt. 65 just north of Five Point Road about 1:15 p.m. Jan. 15 when he struck and killed Dr. Stephen Snedden, 47, and injured George Haig, 49, both of Perrysburg. O'Neill's blood-alcohol level tested at 0.214 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Assistant Wood County Prosecutor Gwen Howe-Gebers said that had the case gone to trial, witnesses would have testified that they saw O'Neill cross the State Rt. 64 bridge from Waterville, run the stop sign at Route 65, then cross the center line several times as he headed north on Route 65.

Ms. Howe-Gebers said O'Neill nearly struck two vehicles head-on before returning to his lane. He then almost hit the first bicyclist he came upon.

Dr. Mike Blake, who was riding with Dr. Snedden and Mr. Haig that day, was not hit, but his two friends, who were riding single file in front of him, were not so lucky.

After O'Neill struck the two cyclists, Ms. Howe-Gebers said, O'Neill briefly slowed down then continued driving until he was stopped by police at State Rts. 25 and 65 in Perrysburg.

Outside the courtroom yesterday, Mr. Haig said he has recovered physically, but not emotionally.

"I think about it every day," he said. "My life is changed."

He and Dr. Snedden became acquainted 14 years ago through their medical professions. Dr. Snedden was a pediatrician at Toledo Children's Hospital, and Mr. Haig works as a pharmaceutical research scientist. He said it was their passion for cycling that cemented their friendship.

Mr. Haig said he hasn't ridden his bicycle since the crash, and he didn't know if and when he would.

"I don't think I'll enjoy that. I rode with Steve and that's what made it enjoyable," he said.

While state transportation officials have placed fluorescent "share the road" bicycle signs on Route 65 since the fatal accident, Mr. Haig said there's little anyone could have done to prevent what happened that day.

"Bicyclists or anyone else on the road can do everything they need to do, but there's no protection from an impaired driver," he said.

Ms. Howe-Gebers said prosecutors would ask that O'Neill's sentence for failure to stop after an accident be served concurrently with the sentences he receives for aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault, but Judge Mayberry reminded O'Neill that he could order the sentences to be served consecutively and does not have to take the prosecutor's recommendation.

The judge agreed to allow O'Neill to remain free on bond until sentencing.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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