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Pickup driver pleads not guilty in fatal motorcycle crash

Associated Press logoAssociated Press 6/25/2019 By MICHAEL CASEY, Associated Press

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Video by WMUR Manchester

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A driver for a transport company who has a history of traffic arrests pleaded not guilty Tuesday to seven counts of negligent homicide in a collision with a group of motorcyclists on a rural highway.

Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, was ordered to remain in preventive detention, with a judge saying his driving record poses a potential danger to the public and himself.

The plea was entered by Zhukovskyy's attorney Melissa Davis in Coos County Court in Lancaster, New Hampshire. Zhukovskyy remains behind bars there. Davis didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

The Dodge pickup Zhukovskyy was driving was towing a flatbed trailer and collided with the motorcycles in Randolph early Friday evening, investigators say. He was driving erratically and crossed the center line, according to criminal complaints released Tuesday.

CORRECTS TO SPRINGFIELD NOT HAMPTON DISTRICT COURT - Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, of West Springfield, is escorted into the courtroom for his arraignment in Springfield District Court, Monday, June 24, 2019, in Springfield, Mass. Zhukovskyy, the driver of a truck in a fiery collision on a rural New Hampshire highway that killed seven motorcyclists, was charged Monday with seven counts of negligent homicide.  (Don Treeger/The Republican via AP, Pool)

CORRECTS TO SPRINGFIELD NOT HAMPTON DISTRICT COURT - Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, of West Springfield, is escorted into the courtroom for his arraignment in Springfield District Court, Monday, June 24, 2019, in Springfield, Mass. Zhukovskyy, the driver of a truck in a fiery collision on a rural New Hampshire highway that killed seven motorcyclists, was charged Monday with seven counts of negligent homicide. (Don Treeger/The Republican via AP, Pool)
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A survivor of the crash said the trailer wiped out most of the bikers behind him.

Zhukovskyy was arrested Monday morning at his home in Massachusetts and handed over to New Hampshire authorities after a court appearance that day.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Nov. 8, with the trial running through December.

Connecticut prosecutors say Zhukovskyy was arrested May 11 in a Walmart parking lot in East Windsor Walmart after failing a sobriety test. Zhukovskyy's lawyer in that case, John O'Brien, said he denies being intoxicated and will fight the charge.

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

Zhukovskyy's father, who goes by the same name, told the Boston Herald that his son is a Ukrainian national and has permanent resident status in the U.S. The younger Zhukovskyy's court file includes a letter dated Sunday from a deportation officer from Immigration and Customs Enforcement requesting details on his 2017 heroin and cocaine convictions.

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

Phones rang unanswered at the company. The owner has previously said he was cooperating with the investigation.

The crash victims 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. Four were from New Hampshire, two from Massachusetts and one from Rhode Island.

JarHeads president Manny Ribeiro, who survived the crash, said he just remembers an "explosion" and the trailer from the truck wiping out most of the bikers behind him. The crash would not have been so deadly, he said, if not for the trailer.

After the crash, Ribeiro recalled seeing Zhukovskyy "screaming and running around" in the road before authorities arrived and took him away.

The dead were identified 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.

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