Viorel Grancea sporting facial injuries in his mugshot taking after his arrest
A Romanian driver killed his passenger and left two other women seriously injured after driving into oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road.
Viorel Grancea was behind the wheel of a Ford Focus loaded with five passengers and their luggage, when he hit another car head-on while driving on the A69.
After completing a legitimate overtaking manoeuvre, Grancea, 31, remained in the wrong lane and headed straight into oncoming traffic.
A court heard it is not clear whether Grancea thought he was on a dual carriageway or whether he became confused, having only arrived in the UK two weeks earlier.
His barrister told the court that it was likely that Grancea believed he was in the right lane and ‘thought he was driving back in Romania’.
His front seat passenger, Denis-Alexandra Radvan, 29, died in the collision, while one of his back seat passengers, Julia Menea, was seriously injured.
The driver of the Hyundia I30 he smashed into, 62-year-old Victoria Oliver, was also badly hurt, Newcastle Crown Court heard.
Grancea, who has amassed 13 previous convictions around Europe since leaving Romania, was jailed for six years.
The court heard Grancea was uninsured when the accident happened just after 6.30pm on August 20, on the A69 bypass near Haydon Bridge.
Grancea overtook a tractor on the west-bound carriageway, but then stayed in the lane to overtake another car in front of him.
Newcastle Crown Court heard it is not clear whether Grancea thought he was on a dual carriageway or whether he became confused, having only arrived in the UK two weeks earlier
Richard Bloomfield, defending, said: ‘The manoeuvre he began was safe when he started to undertake it, it was his failure to return to the correct side of the road which caused the risk and the longer he drove on the wrong side of the road, the greater the risk became, so no risk became significant risk.
‘It’s a difficult road, that stretch of the A69. The most likely explanation seems to be he simply lost track of where he was and thought he was driving back in Romania, which is why, even when others were driving towards him, he did nothing.
‘It tends to suggest he thought he was on the right side of the road.’
Prosecutor Michael Bunch said: ‘After passing the tractor, the defendant’s vehicle continued past the other car, leading the driver to comment that the driver must have thought he was on a dual carriageway.
‘Initially the oncoming lane was clear but as the west-bound traffic approached a bend, three cars appeared in view, heading east.
‘The defendant’s car took no evasive action until it was too late and collided with the first east-bound car.’
Mrs Oliver, in the Hyundai, had only driven a short distance to post a letter in Haydon Bridge.
She saw Grancea’s car heading straight for her and assumed it would pull back into the correct lane, but it continued on a collision course.
Mrs Oliver tried to pull left, out of his way, but Grancea pulled right at the same time and they collided.
The driver of the car Grancea had overtaken after the tractor said he saw him get out of his car and go round to the passenger side, where he saw him shake Miss Radvan, whose head was slumped on her chest, and he slapped her face to try to rouse her. She died at the scene from her injuries.
Miss Menea, who lost consciousness for a time, suffered spinal fractures and a fracture to a bone in her pelvis.
Mrs Oliver suffered fractures to her spine and had to wear a halo brace for two to three months. She also had fractures to her collarbone and pain in her arm and hip.
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Grancea, of no fixed address, initially claimed the driver had fled the scene and tried to get his passengers to back up his lie but he went on to admit responsibility.
Miss Radvan’s mother told of her devastation in a victim impact statement read to the court.
She said: ‘The death of my only child will always be, for me, an unspeakable tragedy.
‘I would like to believe some day her loss will become a terrible memory but the agony of never hearing my daughter calling me mama again will haunt me forever.’
She said it had cost her more than ten times her monthly earnings to repatriate her daughter and for her funeral.
The court heard Grancea had accrued 13 previous convictions in seven jurisdictions since leaving Romania, all but one of which had resulted in prison.
He pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving, causing death while uninsured, causing death by driving while unlicensed, two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, driving without insurance and driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence.
He was jailed for six years and banned from driving for six years after his release, although he is likely to be deported.
Judge Gittins said he had ‘arrogantly chosen to flout the rules of the road’ and had also driven a car which was overloaded with four people in the back and had collided with the other car at a ‘terrifying combined speed’.
Referring to Miss Radvan, the judge added: ‘She was clearly a truly loved young lady and it was a needless waste of a young life.
‘No sentence can or is meant to be a measure of this life lost.’
Judge Gittins told Grancea: ‘Even if you thought, mistakenly, it was a dual carriageway, you persisted with that road position into and through a bend and in the face of oncoming traffic.’
The judge said it would be for others to look into how he was permitted to enter the UK with his criminal record and to ‘decide what lessons can be learned’.
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