CONCORD, N.H. (AP/WPRI) — A lawyer for the pickup truck driver blamed for causing a collision that killed seven motorcyclists over the weekend entered a not guilty plea on his client’s behalf.
Authorities said Tuesday Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, waived his arraignment on negligent homicide charges. Zhukovskyy appeared in court in Massachusetts Monday on a fugitive from justice charge after being arrested in his West Springfield home.
He waived extradition and had agreed to return to New Hampshire to face seven charges of negligent homicide, one count for each life taken in the crash.
According to a court spokesperson, Zhukovskyy’s trial is scheduled for November and December of this year, with jury selection slated to start Nov. 8. In the meantime, the bail order obtained by Eyewitness News said Zhukovskyy will be placed in “preventative detention” because his “criminal and driving history exhibit a pattern of operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner” and if released he would “present a danger to the safety of the defendant or the public.”
Of the dead, four New Hampshire residents, a couple from Lakeville, Massachusetts, and an East Providence, Rhode Island man.
With his court appearance on hold for now, questions still remain as to why Zhukovskyy was allowed behind the wheel. An employee with Westfield Transport, the company Zhukovskyy was driving for, said the 23-year-old was a new driver on his second trip with the company when the crash took place.
In court in Massachusetts Monday, Zhukovskyy’s defense attorney Donald Frank declined to answer any questions about the 23-year-old’s driving record in the Bay State, which Eyewitness News learned includes a violation for “operating under the influence” in 2013. It also includes two violations for “at fault for an accident” in 2012 and 2014.
“It’s tragic for the families involved, it’s tragic for the victims and it’s tragic for his family, too,” Frank said.
Most recently, Connecticut court records obtained by Eyewitness News show Zhukovskyy was charged with operating under the influence on May 11.
A police report obtained by Eyewitness News says Zhukovskyy was revving his truck’s engine, jumping around outside the vehicle, and suspected to be under the influence of drugs. The report says at the time, he was released on bond for his suicidal comments and extreme behavior, then transported to the hospital for evaluation.
Massachusetts State police said while troopers executed the arrest warrant at Zhukovskyy’s home, they found wax packets containing a substance believed to be heroin. Authorities say those will be tested, and if the substance is illegal, Zhukovskyy could also face narcotics charges in Massachusetts.