Driver in horrific motorcycle crash pleads not guilty as details emerge

John Bacon

A pickup driver accused of slamming into a group of motorcycles waived arraignment and entered a not guilty plea Tuesday in New Hampshire on seven counts of negligent homicide as chilling details emerged from last week's crash and the man blamed for the carnage.

Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, was arrested at his Massachusetts home Monday and brought before a judge for a brief court appearance. He waived extradition and was transported to New Hampshire, where his lawyer entered the plea.

A trial was tentatively set for November.

A group of 22 riders on 15 motorcycles had just finished dinner Friday and was rolling through the rural town of Randolph, 100 miles north of Concord, en route to a nearby veterans fundraiser. They were members of Marine Jarheads MC, a motorcycle club that includes Marines and their spouses.

Police say Zhukovskyy was driving a 2016 Dodge 2500 pickup, towing a trailer that hauls cars, when it collided with the motorcycles. The criminal complaints allege Zhukovskyy, who was being held without bail, was driving erratically and crossed over the center line of the two-lane highway.

JarHeads president Manny Ribeiro said he was riding on a motorcycle next to Al Mazza, one of those hit by the truck.

“It was just an explosion … with parts and Al and everything flying through the air,” Ribeiro said. “He (Zhukovskyy) turned hard left into us and took out pretty much everyone behind me. ... Because the trailer was attached and it was such a big trailer, it was like a whip. It just cleaned us out.”

Ribeiro told a local CBS-TV station that he and his fellow riders started tying tourniquets, hoping to save the lives of their fellow riders.

“This is far worse than anything I’ve ever experienced,” Ribeiro said. “It was like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life. It was awful.”

Ribeiro said Zhukovskyy got out of his pickup and was screaming and running around in the road before being taken into custody. He was questioned but released.

Zhukovskyy was arrested for drunken driving in 2013 and his license was suspended. Authorities in Connecticut say he was arrested May 11 in an East Windsor Walmart parking lot after revving his vehicle and failing a sobriety test. His lawyer in that case, John O’Brien, said Zhukovskyy will fight the charge.

Zhukovskyy made "suicidal comments" and exhibited "extreme behavior" during the arrest, according to a report filed by East Windsor police, prompting them to send him to a Hartford, Connecticut, hospital for treatment. He was released on a $2,500 non-surety bond. 

Records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicate that the company Zhukovskyy was driving for, Westfield Transport, has been cited for various violations in the past two years, MassLive.com reported.

There were two instances where drivers were in possession of narcotic drugs. Other violations included a driver without a commercial driver’s license, one for speeding and another for defective brakes.

The company did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Contributing: Joey Garrison and Mike James, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Driver in horrific motorcycle crash pleads not guilty as details emerge