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Boss: Wrong-way driver 'wasn't bad guy'

Wyatt Klein

GACKLE, N.D. - Wyatt Klein never had any problems at his welding job at Double J Manufacturing here. The deaf 28-year-old was even teaching sign language to some of his co-workers, his boss said.

And on the day authorities say he got drunk and drove the wrong way on Interstate 94, causing a head-on crash that killed him and a West Fargo family of three, Klein was "working fine" up until he left work at 3 p.m., Double J owner Jeff Enzminger said.

Enzminger feels Klein has been unfairly characterized since the July 6 crash west of Jamestown that killed West Fargo couple Aaron and Allison Deutscher and their 18-month-old daughter, Brielle.

"It's a bad thing that happened. I feel sorry for the people that got killed. It's a very bad deal," he said. "But, you know, he wasn't a bad guy. He was trying to change his life, turn his life around. He was working very hard."

The North Dakota Highway Patrol said Klein had a blood-alcohol level of 0.25 percent, more than triple the legal limit of 0.08 percent for driving.

The patrol is still waiting for the results of a drug screening, Sgt. Tom Herzig said. The final crash report states that one of Klein's coworkers told the patrol that Klein smoked marijuana frequently or daily.

Enzminger disputes that, saying someone who frequently used drugs and alcohol couldn't handle his fast-paced business, which manufactures cattle-handling equipment using 800- to 1,000-pound panels.

"Somebody that's on drugs and drinking, they can't make it here," he said.

Enzminger said Klein was upfront about his criminal record, which included at least four drinking and driving convictions.

"When we hired him ... we asked him about his past, all this stuff on his rap sheet, and he just sat down and told us," he said. "And he wrote that he wanted to get his life straightened out."