Truck driver on trial in crash that killed 7 bikers

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CONCORD, NH – A prosecutor said Tuesday that a commercial truck driver charged with the 2019 deaths of seven members of a Navy motorcycle club told police he caused the accident and was not looking , while the driver’s lawyer said it was the fault of the lead rider, who looked over his shoulder at his fellow riders moments before the collision.

Truck driver Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 26, who had taken heroin, fentanyl and cocaine on June 21, 2019, “drove back and forth several times” before the head-on crash, said said prosecutor John McCormick in his opening statement at Zhukovskyy’s trial in the state. Lancaster Upper Court.

He said multiple witnesses would testify that Zhukovskyy, who said he was leaning over for a drink before the crash, was seen crossing the center line of U.S. Route 2 in Randolph, New Hampshire.

McCormick said Zhukovskyy knew how dangerous heroin was because on May 5 of that year he overdosed on the drug while on a fishing trip with his family and was resuscitated by police, who administered an overdose reversal drug.

“It wasn’t just an accident,” McCormick said. “It was criminal recklessness and criminal negligence.”

Zhukovskyy’s attorney, Steve Mirkin, said his client took the drugs on June 21, but he said there was no evidence he was intoxicated at the time of the crash. and that police made no observations in the hours that followed suggesting he was impaired.

He said Jarheads Motorcycle Club president Albert “Woody” Mazza, who led the motorcycle group, lost control of his motorcycle, made contact with Zhukovskyy’s truck first, and caused the accident. Mirkin said Mazza had been drinking and his blood alcohol level was nearly double the legal limit of 0.08 in New Hampshire.

“Drunk drivers kill,” Mirkin said. “Al Mazza was drunk. Vlad Zhukovskyy is not guilty of any of these charges.

He asked the jury to listen to testimony of what they had seen and said much of the testimony would be inconsistent.

The first witnesses to testify were drivers who approached the scene of the accident from both directions. They described seeing dead bodies, including one under a wheel of a flatbed trailer pulled by the truck, as well as debris from the burning motorcycles and truck.

“You see this footage in movies like ‘Saving Private Ryan,'” said Annie Barron, a nurse who was a passenger in a car behind the truck and got out to see if she could help anyone. “That’s what you saw – like scattered limbs.”

She said she stayed with a seriously injured man and helped perform CPR when he stopped breathing, but she was unable to resuscitate him.

Her husband, Stephen Piwowarski, testified to seeing the truck cross the line at times, once shortly before the collision. He said he slowed down at one point because he didn’t feel the trucker was driving safely.

The vehicles then approached a hill. Piwowarski said he was unable to see the moment of impact.

“The thing that was immediately visible to me was a number of motorcyclists trying to throw their bikes and get out of the way,” he said, meaning to put the bikes down. “I think it was a case of not feeling like there was anywhere to go.”

On cross-examination, Piwowarski testified that a state trooper’s account that Piwowarski saw the entire crash was a misrepresentation.

Jurors traveled to the crash site on Monday and traced Zhukovskyy’s route from a car dealership in Gorham to the crash site, about 10 miles away.

The motorcyclists who died were from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island and were between the ages of 42 and 62. They were part of a larger group that had just left a motel along the highway and was heading to an American Legion post in Gorham for a fundraiser.

They were traveling east when they collided with the westbound truck, which was towing an empty trailer.

Killed were Mazza, of Lee, New Hampshire; Edward and Jo-Ann Corr, a couple from Lakeville, Massachusetts; Michael Ferazzi, of Contoocook, New Hampshire; Desma Oakes, of Concord, New Hampshire; Daniel Pereira, of Riverside, Rhode Island; and Aaron Perry, of Farmington, New Hampshire.

Several motorcyclists were also injured.

Zhukovskyy, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of negligent homicide, manslaughter, driving under the influence and reckless driving. He has been in prison since 2019.

Zhukovskyy himself told police he had used both heroin and cocaine on the morning of the crash, but was “well and could drive” later in the day. evening, authorities said.

His lawyers argued that an independent analysis showed that Mazza was drunk and that he was the one who hit the truck and caused the accident. Federal investigators found that some of the riders and passengers were impaired by alcohol, but that was not the cause of the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board approved a report in December 2020 that concluded Zhukovskyy’s drug-induced impairment was the ‘probable cause’ for him crossing the center line on the freeway and initiating the fire crash .

Prosecutors said Zhukovskyy should never have been on the road in the first place. His commercial driver’s license should have been revoked in Massachusetts due to a drunk driving arrest in Connecticut about two months earlier, they said.

This story has been corrected to show that defense attorney Steve Mirkin said Albert Mazza’s blood alcohol level was close to twice the legal limit, not more than the legal limit.

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