The driver of a pickup truck was arrested Monday in connection with a crash that killed seven motorcyclists on a New Hampshire highway, a tragedy that struck at the heart of a tight-knit biker community of veterans.
Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, of West Springfield, Mass., has been charged with seven counts of negligent homicide, said Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio. Police said that last week, Zhukovskyy was driving a pickup towing a flatbed trailer when it collided with a pack of motorcyclists on Route 2 near Randolph, N.H. In addition to those killed, three others were severely injured, according to New Hampshire state police.
Michael Ferazzi, Albert Mazza, Daniel Pereira, Joanne and Edward Corr, Desma Oakes and Aaron Perry died in the crash, the state’s deputy attorney general said Sunday.
Zhukovskyy was arraigned in Springfield district court Monday afternoon, according to The Boston Globe, which reported that he said he would not fight extradition to New Hampshire to face his charges there. His attorney, Donald Frank, called the crash a tragedy but said the criminal justice system should play out, the AP reported.
Reached by WMUR before his arrest, Zhukovsky expressed remorse.
“It was a big tragedy. I’m trying to process this with my family,” he said. “I’m feeling shocked. It happened so fast. I am cooperating with police. I feel mentally hurt.”
New Hampshire State Police Capt. Chris Vetter told reporters Friday that “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a crash with this much loss of life.”
The bikers killed in the crash were members of Jarheads Motorcycle Club, which is composed of current and former Marines and their spouses, according to a GoFundMe page set up to assist the victims’ families. As of writing, the campaign has raised $348,000, nearly half of its $700,000 goal.
The fundraiser was started by Doug and Drenda Hayward, members of the motorcycle club who survived the crash, according to WCBV Boston. Doug’s parents, Mark and Sharon Hayward, told the outlet that the Jarheads "all served their country and they’re very close.”
The riders were traveling from a charity event at a nearby American legion when they collided with Zhukovsky’s truck.
"We lost 5 patch holders and 2 supporters, and many others are injured,” the GoFundMe page said. “We are strong enough to get through this, but we ask for and need your support.”
New England’s motorcycling community mourned the deaths this week. Andy Best, road captain for another area motorcycle club who knew some of the Jarheads, tearfully told WCBV that “I couldn’t even imagine if it was our guys," before adding, "They are our guys, because they’re Marines.”
The Jarheads held events at the Veterans of Foreign Wars outpost in Whitman, Mass., The Patriot Ledger reported, where they were known as charitable veterans who continued to serve their community long after they ended their military service.
Al Rainey, quartermaster for the Whitman VFW, told the Ledger that the Jarheads were like family.
“They were brothers and sisters,” he said."It may not be blood, but they are still brothers and sisters, for what we all went through going into the military.”
Hundreds attended a Saturday vigil for the victims in Columbia, N.H., the Associated Press reported. The previously planned Blessing of the Bikes ceremony, in which riders are blessed by a priest or other religious figure to ensure safe travels for the year, was reconstituted as a memorial to the Jarheads MC members.
As mourner Laura Cardinal, vice president of the Manchester Motorcycle Club told the AP: “When they fall, we all fall.”
A previous version of the story misidentified the state of the Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter frequented by the Jarheads. It has been corrected.