CONCORD, N.H. (WPRI/AP) — The driver involved in a crash that killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire was on drugs and reached for a beverage just before crashing into with a group of bikers, according to details from a federal inspection report that was published Thursday.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration report obtained by Eyewitness News says that Volodymyr Zhukovskyy tested positive for an unspecified drug when his pickup truck crossed the center yellow line and crashed into motorcyclists. Zhukovskyy also admitted that he reached for a drink just before the crash, according to the report. The report did not say what kind of drink he was reaching for.
Zhukovskyy, 23, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, has pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide in the crash. The seven who died were members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, a New England group that includes Marines and their spouses.
A phone message seeking comment was left with a lawyer for Zhukovskyy.
Since the crash, it has emerged that Zhukovskyy had multiple run-ins with the law.
In May, Connecticut prosecutors said Zhukovskyy was arrested in a Walmart parking lot after failing a sobriety test. Zhukovskyy’s lawyer in that case, John O’Brien, said he denies being intoxicated and will fight the charge.
Connecticut officials twice alerted Massachusetts about an earlier drunken driving arrest. Massachusetts investigators later determined the Registry of Motor Vehicles hadn’t been acting on thousands of out-of-state notifications about serious driving violations.
Also, police in Texas told several media outlets that Zhukovskyy also crashed a tractor-trailer in suburban Houston in June. Zhukovskyy told police that he had been cut off, causing him to lose control of the truck. He was not charged.
Zhukovskyy was also 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.
The Massachusetts company that Zhukovskyy was driving for on the day of June 21 crash also has a troubled history.
According to an analysis of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data, Westfield Transport Inc. faced over 60 violations over the last 24 months.
About one in five inspections of its vehicles ended with federal investigators issuing temporary orders saying the carrier was not authorized to operate. The company’s out-of-service rate is 20.8% — a figure nearly four times greater than the national average of 5.5%.
Federal records show the company has faced seven violations for unsafe driving, including speeding. The company also faced two violations in March 2018, reported in Massachusetts and Vermont, of drivers who were in possession of a narcotic drug or amphetamine.
A person answering the phone at Westfield Transport, who did not identify himself, would only say the company no longer exists and that he wanted to express condolences to the victims. He did not want to comment further and hung up the phone.