Driver accused of hitting two cyclists thought he hit a deer, fiancee says

BELLEVUE Brett Hensinger and Shane Tobin met Friday evening in Lindsey, a small village southwest of
jasonsinger
May 24, 2010

BELLEVUE

Brett Hensinger and Shane Tobin met Friday evening in Lindsey, a small village southwest of Oak Harbor, and planned to cycle 25 miles back to Hensinger's Bellevue home.

The longtime friends -- Hensinger, 17, a senior at Bellevue High School, and Tobin, 18, a recent Bellevue graduate attending the University of Toledo -- had been training for a triathlon that took place this weekend.

But just two miles from Hensinger's home on County Road 62 near the Sandusky-Seneca County border, the night took a terrifying twist.

A vehicle struck the two bicyclists from behind at about 9:15 p.m., leaving Tobin paralyzed from the waist down. He's still in critical condition at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo.

Hensinger suffered significant head injuries that required 40 stitches, including broken cheek bones. He's been upgraded to fair condition, and his grandmother, Arlene Hensinger, said he may be released from the hospital today or tomorrow.

"It's so sad," Arlene said. "They've been in school together, doing sports together, been training together for triathlons. They've been friends for a long time."

Arlene said all things considered, Brett Hensinger was in good spirits.

"He'd never missed a day of school, and he's kind of upset about that, because he has 11 years for perfect attendance," she said of her grandson. "But it could've been worse."

The Ohio State Highway Patrol issued a news release Monday night saying Coleman Flanigan, 28, of Norwalk struck the bicyclists in a hit and run. His vehicle was seized and processed for evidence.

Misty Oddo, Flanigan's fiancee, said Flanigan came home Friday night and thought he had hit a deer. She said he stopped the vehicle and checked the surroundings, but found nothing. He cooperated with police and passed a breath test.

Oddo said Flanigan still doesn't know if he's the one who hit the boys, but he's a father of three and would never intentionally harm anyone.

"We're getting these horrible phone calls calling, people saying all kinds of horrible things," Oddo said. "The police haven't arrested him. No charges have been filed. They haven't told us anything. It's just so frustrating."

She said newspapers and readers have already convicted him, but they wouldn't do that if they knew him personally.

"He's a good man and a good father," she said. "His name's being drug through the dirt. But he would never do anything to purposely harm someone. It's an absolutely horrible situation, and I feel for the kids' families. But he thinks he hit a deer. He's really shaken up about it. He really is a good man."

A spokesman for the Ohio State Highway Patrol said Monday investigators had no new information to report.

Candi Sauber of the Seneca County prosecutor's office said she hadn't received the case yet from the state patrol, but charges might be filed today or Wednesday.

Arlene Hensinger said her grandson ran cross country and wrestled for Bellevue High School. He will stay with her when he is released from the hospital, she said.

"He's coming here because we have no steps and two bathrooms," she said. "It'll be easier on him."

She said the situation could have been worse.

"We're very thankful," she said. "We thank God they're alive."

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