West Springfield man waives arraignment, pleads not guilty in N.H. crash that killed 7
LANCASTER, N.H. — A pickup truck driver accused of killing seven motorcycle riders in a fiery crash last week was ordered held without bail Tuesday after waiving his arraignment on negligent homicide charges.
Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, pleaded not guilty. He has a history of driving arrests and allegedly collided head-on with the motorcyclists after crossing the center line on Route 2 in Randolph, N.H.
In a bail order, Judge Peter H. Bornstein wrote that Zhukovskyy’s “criminal and driving history exhibit a pattern of operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner. If released, he will likely present a danger to the safety of defendant or the public.”
Officials allege that Zhukovskyy was driving his pickup truck and trailer erratically before the crash, which caused his truck to burst into flames on the side of the highway. Zhukovskyy escaped serious injury.
Zhukovskyy, who lives in West Springfield, Mass., had started working for Westfield Transport three days before the crash, according to the company’s owner. Zhukovskyy received his commercial driving license less than a year ago, according to his brother-in-law.
The motorcyclists were members of Jarheads MC, a biker club for Marine Corps veterans and their friends from across New England.
Zhukovskyy’s lawyer could not be reached for comment. Coos County Attorney John McCormick declined to say whether more charges would be filed as the case progresses.
“As evidence comes in, we will make charging decisions based on that,” McCormick said. Asked why investigators permitted Zhukovskyy to leave the crash scene after speaking with him Friday night, McCormick said “this was a complex crash scene, a complex collision involving multiple motorists.”
An indictment against Zhukovskyy must be returned by Sept. 24, court officials said.
The victims were identified as Jo-Ann and Edward Corr, both 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.
On Tuesday, Oakes’s father, Daniel Cook, 71, said his daughter had lost her son and then her husband to cancer before committing herself to service, volunteering for a group that supports families facing pediatric cancer.
“She got involved in things and got involved in helping people,” Cook said. “That seemed to be her way.”
Oates and Perry had been dating for about six months, Cook said. His daughter was new to motorcycling but had relished her time with the club.
Friends and relatives of the victims had traveled to the courthouse and were frustrated Zhukovskyy waived his arraignment.
“The intention was to be part of this hearing as part of their healing process,” said Merrimack County, N.H., Sheriff Scott Hilliard, who had employed Ferazzi as a deputy sheriff. Relatives and friends “want people to know that as a motorcycle group, they stick together. They are helping each other heal.”
Hilliard said Ferazzi, who served in the Marines, had battled cancer but “things were looking up” prior to the crash. “He was very positive, very upbeat.”
At the time of the crash, Zhukovskyy was free on bond in a pending impaired driving case out of East Windsor, Conn. A police report from the May 11 incident says Zhukovskyy made “suicidal comments” and displayed “extreme behavior” during his arrest.
According to the report, an officer was called to a Walmart parking lot around 9:40 a.m. to check on a man, later identified as Zhukovskyy, “revving his truck engine and jumping around outside the vehicle.”
Zhukovskyy was arrested for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, records show. His lawyer in that case told The Associated Press that Zhukovskyy denied the charge.
Zhukovskyy’s problems behind the wheel began at age 16, when police in West Springfield found him and another man in a car that had crashed into heavy brush, according to court records. Zhukovskyy was charged with driving without a license, speeding, and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.
In June 2013, he was arrested on drunk driving charges in Westfield and sentenced to a year of probation, and his license was suspended for 210 days, according to media reports. In January 2017, an employee at a gas station in West Springfield picked up Zhukovskyy’s lost wallet and found cocaine and heroin inside, court records show. Zhukovskyy pleaded guilty to possession of the two drugs and was ordered to pay a $200 fine.