Man sentenced in crash that killed bicyclist in Oakland

Man sentenced in crash that killed bicyclist in Oakland

PITTSBURGH — A man was sentenced to prison on Thursday for causing a crash in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood that killed a bicyclist, who was a University of Pittsburgh professor.

In court, David Witherspoon said he will live with the guilt and grief of killing Susan Hicks for the rest of his life.

The Hicks family was too distraught to appear for the hearing, but had a statement read in court, which said, in part, "We will forever be reminded of her loss and we will never be able to bring her back."

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David Witherspoon crashed his vehicle into another vehicle at the corner of Forbes and Bellefield avenues in October 2015, which forced the other vehicle forward. That vehicle, investigators said, pinned Susan Hicks, 34, who died at a Pittsburgh hospital.

Witherspoon didn’t have a license and was smoking synthetic marijuana, according to authorities.

Witherspoon pointed to several medical conditions, including bipolar disorder, as factors in the crash, for which he and his attorney repeatedly apologized. But the district attorney said Witherspoon faked a seizure at the scene, and many of his medical conditions are drug induced.

In February, Witherspoon pleaded guilty to charges of accident involving death while not properly licensed, involuntary manslaughter and possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced Thursday to 5 1/2 to 9 years in prison.

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"Her incident has raised a lot of awareness about problems," said Eric Boerer of Bike Pittsburgh. Since that day, the organization has worked with the city to make Forbes Avenue safer. Bike lanes will soon be installed along the road, and plans are in place for a bike route to connect Oakland and downtown. Work to install those bike lanes in Oakland could begin as early as this fall.

"Having infrastructure dedicated for bicycling keeps people alive, keeps people safe and make sure people on bikes get to where they're going," Boerer said.

Hicks' family said Susan dedicated her life to helping others, and hopes these changes will be an extension of that work.