The head of Massachusetts’s motor-vehicle agency has stepped down amid criticism that her division should have previously revoked the license of the driver charged in a crash that killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire.
Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, faces seven charges of negligent homicide in connection with Friday’s collision on a two-lane highway near the rural town of Randolph, N.H., according to Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio. Zhukovskyy, of West Springfield, Mass., pleaded not guilty to all seven counts Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles had received information from Connecticut’s motor-vehicle agency about a May 11 drunken driving incident that should have prompted the removal of Zhukovskyy’s driver’s license, Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said in a statement Tuesday.
Zhukovskyy was charged with operating under the influence and refusing a chemical test in connection with the May 11 incident, Pollack said. His lawyer in that case, John O’Brien, told the Associated Press that Zhukovskyy denies being intoxicated.
Zhukovskyy’s driving history also includes a June 2013 arrest on a drunken driving charge for which he served suspensions and completed a youth alcohol program, Pollack said in the statement.
Erin Deveney resigned from the motor-vehicle agency’s top post and will be replaced by former Department of Transportation chief operating officer Jamey Tesler, who Pollack said will review the motor-vehicle agency’s state-to-state information-sharing processes.
Zhukovskyy, a commercial truck driver, was driving a Dodge pickup towing a flatbed trailer when the truck collided with a group of motorcyclists on Route 2, police said. In addition to those killed, three others were severely injured. New Hampshire state police said.
Michael Ferazzi, Albert Mazza, Daniel Pereira, Jo-Ann and Edward Corr, Desma Oakes and Aaron Perry died in the crash, according to the state’s deputy attorney general.
Manny Ribeiro, who survived the collision, told the Associated Press that the motor-vehicle registrar’s resignation showed the crash was avoidable but also felt “like someone was running around from the problem.”
“We just get to quit and walk away and that’s it,” Ribeiro told the Associated Press. “Story over. See you later until the next time it happens and then the next person steps down. This is what happens every single time.”
The bikers 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. The riders were traveling from a charity event at a nearby American Legion post when they collided with Zhukovskyy’s truck.
Zhukovskyy expressed remorse when WMUR-TV reached him before his arrest.
“It was a big tragedy. I’m trying to process this with my family,” he told WMUR. “I’m feeling shocked. It happened so fast. I am cooperating with police. I feel mentally hurt.”
Zhukovskyy is scheduled to stand trial in November and December, the Associated Press reported.
The crash rattled New England’s motorcycle community, members of which expressed deep affection for the bikers who were killed.
Andy Best, the road captain for another area motorcycle club who knew some of the JarHeads, tearfully told WCBV-TV, “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., according to the Patriot Ledger, where they were known as veterans who continued to serve their community long after they ended their military service.
New Hampshire State Police Capt. Chris Vetter earlier told reporters that “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a crash with this much loss of life.”
A previous version of the story misidentified the state of the Veterans of Foreign Wars outpost frequented by the Jarheads. It has been corrected.