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Lincoln Place man pleads guilty to critically injuring bicyclist in hit-and-run in Lawrenceville

| Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, 12:57 p.m.

Bruised and broken from head to toe, Dan Yablonsky looked forward to getting back on his bike.

“When I started riding again ... that was the big pie in the sky,” said Yablonsky, 25, of Larimer. “It was such a surreal experience.”

The driver of the black Jeep Wrangler who struck Yablonsky while he was riding his bicycle on May 13, 2012, pleaded guilty Thursday to two felony charges related to the crash.

Beau Fishinger, 31, of Lincoln Place agreed to a plea deal that calls for Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski to sentence him next week to 12 to 24 months in prison. His sentence will run consecutive to the 2½- to five-year sentence that a judge imposed in January for violating the terms of his probation on previous charges.

Fishinger will serve seven years on probation after he gets out of prison. He was ordered to pay about $60,000 in fines and restitution.

“I appreciate that the judge and the (criminal justice) system looked at this not as an accident, but for what it was — an assault,” Yablonsky said on Thursday.

Police said Yablonsky and two friends were riding their bikes from Bloomfield to the Strip District about 2:30 a.m. on May 13 when Fishinger struck him head-on while attempting to turn left from Liberty Avenue onto Ligonier Street in Lawrenceville.

Yablonsky, who was wearing a helmet, suffered a fractured leg, pelvis and arm and a torn aorta. He was unconscious for three weeks and didn't start walking for another five months. He got back on a bicycle in February or March, he said.

Fishinger turned himself in to police the next day and told authorities he had been drinking in the South Side the night of the accident, but thought he hit a dog or a deer. He said he sped off because he knew he would be in trouble for driving with a suspended license. Court records show Fishinger has been convicted of three DUIs since 2003.

Fishinger pleaded guilty on Thursday to aggravated assault by vehicle; accidents involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed; and five summary counts. The District Attorney's Office dropped one felony count of accidents involving death or personal injury in exchange for his plea.

“I hope it sends a message to everyone that people's actions while on the road carry serious consequences,” said Yablonsky, who went back to work in October at Bike Pittsburgh, a Lawrenceville-based bicycle advocacy group. “If Pittsburgh's going to have safer streets, we need people to recognize their responsibility, whether they're walking, bicycling, driving or taking public transportation.”

The incident involving Yablonsky was among several vehicle-bicycle crashes in late 2011 and 2012.

In January, Mark McCloskey, 27, of Valencia was sentenced to six months of house arrest for striking retired University of Pittsburgh professor David Wood as he rode his bicycle in Highland Park on Sept. 4, 2012. The following month, Jeffrey McClure, 29, of Pitcairn was sentenced to 2½ to 5 years in prison for the July 25, 2011, death of James Price, 46, as he rode his bicycle on Penn Avenue in Point Breeze.

Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh, said it's going to take a lot for authorities to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

“What strikes me most is that someone with three or four DUIs was still able to get behind the wheel,” he said.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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