Romania wants Marine for questioning about accident that killed rock star
Stars and Stripes December 7, 2004
The Romanian government has requested that a U.S. Marine return to Bucharest for questioning in a Friday night auto accident that killed a popular Romanian musician.
Staff Sgt. Christopher R. VanGoethem, 31, commander of the security detachment that guards the U.S. embassy in Bucharest, is suspected of crashing an embassy-owned SUV into a taxi, killing Teofil Peter, a veteran rock musician and producer, Romanian police said.
Breath tests indicated that VanGoethem had been drinking alcohol, Romanian police told The Associated Press.
VanGoethem, who was not injured, was transported some time after the accident to Marine Security Group’s Company H headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, a Marine spokesman said on Monday. The spokesman added that VanGoethem was likely to return to his battalion headquarters in Quantico, Va.
But the Romanian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday that it had learned “with consternation” that the Marine had left the country and that it had asked U.S. authorities to bring him back and waive his diplomatic immunity so he could face justice.
The Marine spokesman, Maj. Matthew Morgan of the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade of Camp Lejeune, N.C., said the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating the incident. Morgan said that VanGoethem had not been charged with a crime.
NCIS agents were scheduled to arrive Tuesday in Bucharest, according to a U.S. government official in Bucharest, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said VanGoethem “is entitled to certain immunities under international law as an accredited member of embassy staff.” The official said he did not know if VanGoethem was immune from being prosecuted in this case.
The official said that Romanian police gave VanGoethem a breath-analysis test. He added that there was “some disagreement between American and Romanian authorities over who would administer” a blood test. The official said one was eventually administered and that U.S. authorities took custody of the results.
U.S. Ambassador Jack Dyer Crouch said Sunday that the embassy regretted the incident, Romanian state news agency Rompres reported.
Crouch said the U.S. Marine Corps will cooperate with Romanian authorities in their investigation.
A decision on whether to hand over the Marine to Romanian authorities will be made after the Romanian and NCIS investigations are complete, Crouch said.
Crouch spoke to Peter’s son earlier Monday, expressing condolences for the family’s loss, the embassy said.
Peter’s death caused an outpouring of emotion in Romania. In his native region of Transylvania, radio stations played his group’s music all night Saturday in tribute.
Peter was riding in the passenger seat of the taxi. The driver escaped with minor injuries.
Stars and Stripes reporter Scott Schonauer and the Associated Press contributed to this report.