Truck Driver Charged With 7 Homicides in NH Motorcycle Crash

About 10 motorcyclists were involved in a collision Friday with a pickup truck while traveling in Randolph, New Hampshire

The truck driver involved in a crash that killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire on Friday has been arrested on negligent homicide charges.

The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office said 23-year-old Vlodymyr Zhukovskyy was arrested at his West Springfield, Massachusetts, home around 8 a.m. Monday by Massachusetts State Police.

He was taken into custody on a fugitive from justice charge based on an arrest warrant issued Monday charging him with seven counts of negligent homicide.

Zhukovskyy made a brief court appearance Monday in Springfield, Massachusetts. He looked down at his feet as he was led into the courtroom with his hands cuffed behind his back. He waived extradition and agreed to be returned to New Hampshire, where he will be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Coos County Superior Court.

Massachusetts State Police said troopers found wax packets containing a residue believed to be heroin in Zhukovskyy's home. If the residue tests positive for an illegal narcotic, they said he will face a drug charge as well.

Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles records show that Zhukovskyy was arrested on drunken driving charges last month and in 2013.

He was stopped by police in East Windsor, Connecticut, on May 11, state court records show. Details were not available; a message seeking comment was left for his lawyer in that case.

Additionally, Zhukovskyy was arrested for drunken driving in 2013 in Westfield, Massachusetts, state motor vehicle records show. He was placed on probation for one year and had his license suspended for 210 days, The Westfield News reported.

Police said Zhukovskyy was driving a Westfield Transport vehicle when he crashed into the bikers. Police questioned that company's owner, Damien Gasanov, in his West Springfield home Thursday. Authorities say Gasanov is cooperating.

When asked whether Zhukovskyy should have been on the road, Gasanov declined to answer directly.

"No more comments, guys. We cooperate with all of the troopers. We fully cooperate with all of the agencies. We fully give them everything we have," he said.

Asked again, Gasanov repeated, "No more comments."

A man who answered the phone at the home of Zhukovskyy's family and would identify himself only as his brother-in-law said Monday that the family is in shock and feeling the same pain as everyone else but couldn't say whether the driver was right or wrong. Since the accident, the brother-in-law said, Zhukovskyy had remained in his room, not eaten and talked to no one.

Defense attorney Donald Frank called Friday's crash a "tragedy" but said it's important to let the criminal justice system play out.

"It's tragic for the families involved, it's tragic for the victims in this, it's tragic for his family too," Frank said. "I'm not trying to equate that they're all the same. I'm making no such gesture. But I'm hoping everybody would be respectful toward the people who died in this case and respectful for what he has to go through too."

A pickup truck towing a flatbed trailer collided with a group of 10 motorcycles on a two-lane highway in the small town of Randolph, New Hampshire, on Friday night, leaving victims strewn on the grass amid their shattered bikes. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

The victims of the wreck were members or supporters of the Marine JarHeads -- a New England motorcycle club that includes Marines and their spouses -- and ranged in age from 42 to 62.

A long-planned Blessing of the Bikes ceremony for motorcycle enthusiasts became a scene of mourning and reflection Sunday as about 400 people paid tribute to seven bikers killed in a devastating collision with a pickup truck.

"When they fall, we all fall," said Laura Cardinal, vice president of the Manchester Motorcycle Club, adding that fellow bikers will support the families of those who died. "Those families, they're going to go through a lot now. They have a new world ahead of them."

Blessing of the Bikes ceremonies are held in many locations as a way to give prayers for a safe season. Sunday's event, situated about an hour from the accident site, was expected to draw maybe 100 or 200 people before it was transformed by tragedy.

The Rev. Rich Baillargeon presided, blessing the bikes using a branch dipped in holy water as they filed by, and held a moment of silence and prayer for the victims. One biker got up to say a prayer but got choked up and couldn't finish. The ceremony also included a bugle playing of taps.

Many of the bikers wore jeans and leather jackets with their club patches and rumbled in on their Harley-Davidsons. The outdoor gathering took place on the property of a former church, with bikers parking in rows in the parking lot and on the grass on a warm, sunny day as vendors sold corn dogs, french fries, pizza, sausage and lemonade.

Gary and Sheila Judkins came from Sumner, Maine, in part because of the crash, saying being there was a way to feel connected to other riders.

"It's a positive thing for bikers. And if anything, bikers need something positive," Gary Judkins said.

Authorities identified the dead as Michael Ferazzi, 62, of Contoocook, New Hampshire; Albert Mazza Jr., 59, of Lee, New Hampshire; Desma Oakes, 42, of Concord, New Hampshire; Aaron Perry, 45, of Farmington, New Hampshire; Daniel Pereira, 58, of Riverside, Rhode Island; and Jo-Ann and Edward Corr, both 58, of Lakeville, Massachusetts.

One person injured in the wreck remained hospitalized in stable condition. Relatives of all but one of the victims could not be reached for comment or their numbers were not listed. The state attorney general's office said the Ferazzi family had asked that reporters not contact them.

Mazza Jr.'s family described the former Marine and father of two as a quiet, self-starter who fell in love with motorcycles at an early age and always seemed to best anyone he competed against. When he got out of the Marines, he worked in the defense industry and then the construction business. Along with bikes, relatives said Mazza Jr. was passionate about judo and hunting when he was growing up. In the past two decades, his father Albert Mazza said he had very little contact with his son partly because he lives in Kenly, North Carolina.

"He was a young man who could do anything. I competed in all kinds of things in my life...and everything he tried to do, he beat me in," Albert Mazza said. "He was a natural at everything ... He was a tough, young guy who didn't know how to quit...I was always proud of him and I always bragged on him because I knew he was a better man than I was."

Joseph Mazza, Mazza Jr.'s uncle who lives in Haverhill, Massachusetts, said he was still dealing with the accident and trying to comprehend how so many bikers died in one accident.

"The truck was coming in the opposite direction. It's hard to figure how he could hit 10 motorcycles without getting out of the way," Joseph Mazza said. "Right now, the details are very vague. I'm very confused...I need more information."

The tragedy left the close-knit motorcycle community in shock, with many remembering their own close calls on the road.

"Seven people. C'mon. It's senseless," said Bill Brown, a 73-year-old Vietnam War veteran and motorcyclist, who visited the accident scene Saturday to plant flags. "Somebody made a mistake, and it turned out to be pretty deadly."

Zhukovskyy, the pickup driver, was not seriously hurt in the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating, said he was interviewed at the scene by police and initially allowed to return home to Massachusetts.

Authorities asked for the public's help in the form of videos, photos or other information about the accident or the vehicles.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu ordered flags to fly at half-staff Monday in memory of the victims.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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