A recent Eastern European immigrant who was killed in a car accident last week should never have been issued a driver's license, friends and co-workers say.
But Gooding County Sheriff Robert Aja said Valentin Stana met all the requirements to obtain an Idaho license.The 38-year-old Stana, who came to Idaho from Romania five months ago, was killed Monday in Twin Falls when the car he was driving failed to stop at a stop sign and smashed into a garbage truck.
Before coming here, Stana had never driven a car. And his boss at Idaho Construction Co. said Stana was "a terrible driver" who should not have been issued a license without further training.
In a letter to the editor, Dave Story and two co-workers blame the Good-ing County driver's license bureau for Stana's death.
"He woefully lacked the driving experience necessary to acquire a driver's license, and he went to an incompetent driver's license bureau in Gooding County that gave him the power to kill himself," the letter said.
But Aja said Stana had a valid driver's license from Romania and passed a written test, just like anyone else applying for a license.
Although he could not remember all the details of Stana's visit, Aja said Stana may have used an interpreter to help him take the test. Interpreters regularly help citizens who don't speak English well, Aja said.
The interpreters are supposed to offer help on difficult words and phrases only, not administer the entire test, he said. Before getting his license in November, Stana failed the driver's test in Twin Falls County, Story said.
But licensing officials in Twin Falls and in the state office in Boise say no test was given in Twin Falls County.
Virginia Anton, driver's license examiner for Twin Falls County, said it is common for people who speak little English to obtain their licenses in Gooding County because officials there allow interpreters more leeway in helping people.
"We were worried something like this might happen," Anton said. "It's sad someone lost his life because of it."
Aja said the blame for Stana's death lies with Stana himself, not with Gooding County licensing officials.
"We see people run stop signs every day," Aja said. "They're all legal drivers. I can't take someone on a driving test and know they are going to run a stop sign a week later."
Story said it was likely Stana would have recognized the stop sign and obeyed it under normal driving conditions. But Stana was driving in the early morning twilight and on an unfamiliar stretch of road, Story said.
"Stana was a terrible driver and was not allowed to drive company vehicles, even around the construction company lot," Story said. "He routinely drove 85-90 miles per hour down Kimberly Road on his way to work. I wouldn't drive with him and neither would anyone else."
Story said Stana's 14-year-old son, also named Valentin, is staying with friends for now and may leave for New York to live with relatives. Stana's wife and three other children are still in Romania and were planning to join Stana in February, Story said.