Motorcycle club leader says resignation of RMV head over N.H. crash is ‘ridiculous’
The head of a motorcycle club that lost seven people in a horrific New Hampshire crash last week said Wednesday that the abrupt resignation of the Massachusetts RMV boss is a “ridiculous” response to the tragedy, allegedly caused by a West Springfield man who kept his commercial driver’s license after an impaired driving arrest last month in Connecticut.
“It’s ridiculous for someone to be allowed to resign, or forced to resign . . . [and] run away from the problem,” said Manny Ribeiro, president of Jarheads MC, which lost seven riders who were killed June 21 when a truck driven by Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, allegedly plowed into them in Randolph, N.H.
Zhukovskyy, who has a driving history including multiple OUI arrests and accidents, faces seven counts of negligent homicide stemming from the New Hampshire crash.
Authorities contend he was driving erratically as he headed west Friday night on Route 2 in a 2016 Dodge 2500 pickup truck. The truck, which had a trailer attached to it, crossed the center line and fatally struck the motorcyclists, who were traveling east on the two-lane highway, officials have said.
On Tuesday night, Erin Deveney, head of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, resigned amid revelations that Zhukovskyy had been charged with OUI in May in East Windsor, Conn., but managed to hang onto his commercial license in his home state.
“That’s how nothing gets solved,” Ribeiro said of Deveney’s resignation. “That’s how I feel.”
Asked what the agency should do in the wake of the deadly crash, Ribeiro said, “Fix the problem. I mean, c’mon.”
Zhukovskyy’s refusal of a chemical test during his May 11 arrest on suspicion of OUI in Connecticut would normally trigger the suspension of his commercial driver’s license in Massachusetts. But that didn’t happen.
He was allegedly driving a commercial truck with a trailer attached for Westfield Transport Inc. during the fatal crash in New Hampshire.
In a statement Tuesday night, Stephanie Pollack, the transportation secretary in Massachusetts, said “the RMV had not acted on information provided by the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles about a May 11 incident that should have triggered termination of this individual’s commercial driver’s license.”
Pollack added that Connecticut “failed to provide sufficient information” about Zhukovskyy’s arrest through the federal system for Massachusetts to record the violation.
A spokesman for the Connecticut DMV didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning, and Pollack’s office said she wasn’t available for an interview.
The Connecticut DMV contacted the Massachusetts registry about Zhukovskyy on May 29, but the message “did not contain sufficient information to automatically input Zhukovskyy’s OUI into his Massachusetts driving record,” Pollack said in Tuesday’s statement.
The Connecticut information did, however, generate a notification for a manual review, which registry personnel in Massachusetts did not conduct, officials said.
“Which is why the May 11 chemical test refusal does not appear on Zhukovskyy’s driving record and why his license had not been suspended in Massachusetts,” Pollack said Tuesday.
She said Jamey Tesler, the state Transportation Department’s former chief operating officer, will take over as acting registrar and will lead a review to “ensure the RMV acts as quickly as possible on any information shared by other states,” she said.
The May 11 arrest of Zhukovskyy, who’s denied that charge through counsel, was just one incident in a string of driving infractions and other legal issues that have raised questions about why he was driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the New Hampshire tragedy.
Just 18 days before that crash, the car carrier Zhukovskyy was driving rolled over on a Texas highway, authorities said Tuesday.
Zhukovskyy told police in Baytown, Texas, that he had overcorrected after trying to maneuver around a car that had cut him off. Police could not locate the vehicle Zhukovskyy said cut him off, Baytown police Lieutenant Steve Dorris said. The truck was carrying five cars at the time.
Zhukovskyy was uninjured in the June 3 crash and was not cited by police, Dorris said. The truck he was driving was owned by a Westfield, Mass., company called FBI Express Inc., Dorris said Tuesday. Zhukovskyy did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, Dorris said.
The incident was first reported by WCVB-TV. In February, Zhukovskyy was arrested at a Denny’s restaurant in Baytown along Interstate 10, near the spot of his rollover. Police were called to the restaurant around 2 a.m. after Zhukovskyy showed strange behavior while seated at the counter, Dorris said.
Police found that Zhukovskyy was carrying a crack pipe when they patted him down, Dorris said. He was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.
New Hampshire authorities haven’t alleged that Zhukovskyy was drunk or high during last week’s deadly crash.
On Tuesday, the judge presiding over the case approved a prosecution request to seal the probable cause affidavit laying out the reasons for charging Zhukovskyy with negligent homicide, as well as any warrants they may issue in the matter.
“The New Hampshire State Police are conducting a criminal investigation in reference to” the crash, prosecutors wrote in their motion to seal the records. “Premature disclosure of information . . . could compromise the integrity of the ongoing investigation by revealing information known only to authorities.”
Prosecutors added that making the affidavit public could “adversely affect the ability of the Grand Jury to conduct its investigation into the deaths of Albert L. Mazza, Daniel Perreira, Michael A. Ferrazi, Edward Corr, Joan Corr, Aaron Perry, and Desma Oakes,” the victims killed in the Randolph crash.
Zhukovskyy’s legal problems haven’t been limited to the recent arrests in Connecticut and New Hampshire.
He was also arrested in June 2013 for drunken driving in Westfield. He was sentenced in that case to a year of probation, and his license was suspended for 210 days, the Westfield News reported. There were no fatalities in that case.
A police report in the Westfield case said Zhukovskyy was driving a Honda Civic that struck a parked car before running a stop sign and striking a second vehicle around 12:30 a.m. on June 15, 2013. No one was injured.
“As Volodymyr spoke to me, I could detect a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath, he was unsteady on his feet, his speech was slurred and he had much difficulty following the instructions that I gave to him,” the police report said. “He was very frantic, as he was pacing back and forth. He kept on asking me if he was ‘screwed.’ ”
Police also recovered a 375 milliliter bottle of Hennessy cognac that was three-quarters empty when Zhukovskyy allegedly tossed it out of his car before officers arrived on scene, the report said.
He failed multiple field sobriety tests and, after the Hennessy bottle was recovered, told police, “I see that you found the bottle of Hennessy that I tried to hide in the bushes,” the report said.
At booking, he blew 0.148 and 0.146 during two breathalyzer tests, records show. The legal limit in Massachusetts is 0.08.
More recently, he was also cited for a lane infraction in February, and a review of his record showed Zhukovskyy also had other infractions.
He was cited for an equipment violation in 2013; he also received a 90-day suspended jail sentence in Connecticut for a 2015 case of larceny, records show. The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, Conn., reported that Zhukovskyy told police in that case that he and another person stole ladders and windows from a Home Depot warehouse.
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.
The Zhukovskyy family is originally from Ukraine and has lived in the United States for about 13 years.
On Wednesday, Benjamin H. Champagne, superintendent of the Coos County Department of Corrections, which currently has custody of Zhukovskyy, said a federal immigration detainer was initiated against Zhukovskyy on Monday.
The detainer allows federal immigration officials to take Zhukovskyy into custody for deportation proceedings once the New Hampshire case concludes. The detainer doesn’t preclude him from serving a prison term if he’s convicted.