Massachusetts couple among seven victims killed in New Hampshire crash
RANDOLPH, N.H. — Their lives were cut short Friday, while enjoying the pleasure of the open road and the roaring of motorcycle engines near New Hampshire’s White Mountains: a woman who suffered the loss of a child and husband, then found new love; a man who cared for his fellow veterans; and a man whose friend would refuse to leave his side, no matter what.
On Sunday, a New Hampshire deputy attorney general identified the five men and two women — including a couple from Lakeville, Mass. — who died when their motorcycles and a pickup truck driven by a West Springfield, Mass., man collided on Route 2 in Randolph around 6:30 p.m. Officials also identified two of three people injured in the crash, both of whom are from Western Massachusetts.
The crash, which involved members of Jarheads MC, a motorcycle club comprising Marine Corps veterans and close friends from across New England, has been called one of the worst tragedies in the state by local authorities.
The victims who died were identified as Jo-Ann and Edward Corr, 58, of Lakeville; Michael Ferazzi, 62, of Contoocook, N.H.; Albert Mazza, 59, of Lee, N.H.; Daniel Pereira, 58, of Riverside, R.I.; Desma Oakes, 42, of Concord, N.H.; and Aaron Perry, 45, of Farmington, N.H.
New Hampshire Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jennie Duval has determined that all seven died of blunt force trauma, Deputy Attorney General Jane E. Young told reporters during a press conference at the Incident Planning and Operations Center in Concord, N.H. Sunday afternoon.
The investigation into the crash is ongoing, she said. When asked to describe what the families were going through, Young demurred.
“I don’t think any of us can understand how these families are doing,” Young told reporters. “I don’t think the word ‘devastation’ can begin to describe the pain and anguish.”
Oakes, a 42-year-old mother of two boys, had turned to helping others after she lost her husband and her 4½-year-old son to cancer, said her father, Dan Cook, in an interview. Oakes was riding on the same motorcycle with her boyfriend, Perry, a Marine Corps veteran, at the time of the crash.
Her young son died in 2009; her husband in 2012. In between hospital visits, Oakes began volunteering with Childhood Cancer Lifeline of New Hampshire, an organization that offers financial help to families with children battling cancer, her father said.
Oakes’s older son just graduated from high school, Cook said.
“She wasn’t a person who just took; she was a person who gave,” Cook said.
Mazza’s sister, Tina Mazza, said that the siblings, who were only 10 months apart in age, were very close.
“He was just a really great man, a really great guy, and he loved his family very much,” she said in an interview. “He loved being a veteran and taking care of veterans. That’s just how he was. It’s just very difficult for us as a family right now.”
Pereira was married 27 years and had served in the Marine Corps, said his wife, Helen Pereira.
The couple had two children, 25 and 23 years old.
“He was the best man, he would give you the shirt off his back. And everything he did was for charity, helping with the Marines,” she said in an interview.
Jo-Ann Corr’s brother, Bob Boudreau, told a reporter: “This is a very tragic time for my family.” Jo-Ann and Edward Corr were on the same motorcycle at the time of the crash.
The crash occurred when the pickup truck, which was hauling a trailer, collided with the group of motorcycle riders as they headed for an evening raffle about 9 miles away at an American Legion hall in Gorham.
It happened a few hundred yards from the Inn at Bowman, where Dr. Beatrice C. Engstrand, a neurologist at Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, N.H., lives in a small apartment.
Engstrand, 58, was among the first to respond; she described a horrific scene of shattered bodies and wrecked vehicles strewn across the roadway.
“It was like a war zone,” said Engstrand.
Because of the distance to the nearest hospital, it took 10 minutes for the first ambulance to arrive. Engstrand, family members of the victims, and strangers worked to save as many lives as they could.
“Everybody pitched in to help,” she said. “Nobody ran away.”
Engstrand and others stanched one man’s bleeding with a tourniquet, only to discover that part of his skull was missing, though he remained conscious and alert, she said. Someone performed chest compressions on another man, “but then his pulse stopped and he stopped breathing,” Engstrand said.
In the chaos, she encountered a man who refused to leave his friends.
“One guy, he survived and he only had minor gashes to his knee, and he didn’t want to leave his [fellow motorcyclists]. He said, ‘I have to be with my brothers. I feel so terrible.’ And he was crying his heart out,” she said.
Authorities have identified the driver of the pickup truck as Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, who works for a transportation company in Springfield. He did not require hospitalization, Young has said.
Three other people were injured in the crash, including Joshua Morin of Dalton, Mass., and Steven Lewis of Brimfield, Mass. The third person was not identified by the deputy attorney general Sunday.
It was unclear what Morin’s status was on Sunday. The deputy attorney general said Morin was being treated at Maine Medical Center, but a hospital spokesman said they didn’t have a patient by that name.
Lewis was treated and released from an area hospital.
In an interview Sunday, Lewis, 57, said the Jarheads had turned onto the highway and were about 50 yards down the road when the collision occurred.
Lewis was five or six bikes behind his friend, Pereira, when Lewis saw “parts flying in front of me,” he said.
Pereira’s motorcycle was struck by the truck’s trailer, and his friend’s vehicle came apart, Lewis said.
The trailer then hit Lewis’s bike, which sent him flying over the trailer, and he landed on the roadway. He suffered cuts, bruises, and a swollen hand, he said.
Lewis got up, saw his friend’s bike, and began screaming his name. When he found Pereira, the nearby truck was on fire and people were warning him to get away.
Lewis was the man who Engstrand described calling out for his brothers.
“I asked him not to leave,” Lewis said of Pereira. “I asked him to stay with me. But looking at him, I think I was a little late on that.”
Lewis and Pereira served together in the Marine Corps for four years starting in 1980 and remained close as they participated in charity events and bringing meals to paraplegics at the Jamaica Plain VA Medical Center, he said.
“My best friend isn’t here,” Lewis said. “I’m not going to see that smile. I’m not going to get any practical jokes pulled on me that he liked to do. It’s almost like cutting off your right arm. Part of me is gone, and it’s a good part.”
An investigation into the cause of the crash being conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board could take 12 to 18 months, said Kenny Bragg, the investigator in charge, in a phone interview Sunday.
That probe will run parallel to a criminal investigation by the New Hampshire State Police, he said.
NTSB investigators have been arriving in New Hampshire, and by Monday, the agency is expected to have an eight-member team who will conduct interviews with drivers involved in the crash and any witnesses over the next several days, he said.
They will also be looking at other factors, including driving histories and an examination of the vehicles involved in the collision.
Online records for the US Department of Transportation dating back two years show that Zhukovskyy’s employer, Westfield Transportation in Springfield, hasn’t had any crashes resulting in injuries or death during that period.
In Whitman, where the Jarheads MC group made its home at VFW Post 697, local veterans were grappling with the tragedy, said Al Rainey, a Navy veteran who is the post’s quartermaster.
The VFW is planning to donate money earned from a scheduled car show Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. to support the Jarheads MC organization and members’ families and will hold another vigil that night starting at 9, he said.
They are also hoping to organize another event to benefit the Jarheads and their families later this summer.
“They are our brothers and our sisters. They are not blood related, but they are blood relations because of what we do,” Rainey said. “We are all veterans.”
Because of incorrect information given to the Globe, the first name of the driver of the pickup truck was misspelled in an earlier version of this report.