The truck driver involved in a fiery crash that killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire last week was driving erratically and crossed the double-yellow center line, which caused the crash, a criminal complaint says.
Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, pleaded not guilty to seven charges of negligent homicide and waived his arraignment Tuesday, according to court documents. He did not appear in Coos County, New Hampshire, Superior Court to face the charges.
Coos County Attorney John McCormack said Tuesday that Zhukovskyy is in county custody. Defense attorney Melissa Davis did not respond to a request for comment.
Seven motorcyclists were killed and three others injured when they hit the pickup on Friday in a fiery collision, police said. Among the victims were members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, including some Marine veterans and their spouses.
Zhukovskyy was working as a driver for a transportation company based in Springfield, Massachusetts, at the time of the accident and was the sole occupant of the pickup, Coos County Attorney John McCormick said Saturday.
Separately, Zhukovskyy was arrested last month on a charge of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, according to a police report.
A witness told police that he was revving his truck engine and jumping around outside the vehicle May 11 outside Walmart in East Windsor, Connecticut, the report says.
The truck was found parked and running in the parking lot near the store’s entrance, according to the report. Based on his performance in a field sobriety test, Zhukovskyy was arrested and charged with operating a vehicle under the influence, the report says. Police say he was released on a $2,500 non-surety bond and taken to Hartford Hospital for evaluation.
Zhukovskyy has a court appearance on this charge scheduled for Wednesday, according to court records. His attorney in this case, John O’Brien, has not responded to a request for comment.
Dartanyan Gasanov is the principal of Westfield Transport Inc., according to licensing records. Gasanov said Friday’s wreck occurred during Zhukovskyy’s second trip with the company, on the third day of his 30-day trial period.
“It’s a huge tragedy. It’s really hard to talk now. … He came out of nowhere and ruined my life. I’ve never experienced anything like that,” he said, adding that he extends his condolences to the grieving families.
State police collision analysis and reconstruction teams are investigating the crash, along with local police, the Coos County Attorney’s Office and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Zhukovskyy was arrested at his home in West Springfield, Massachusetts, and taken into custody on a “fugitive from justice” charge Monday, according to Deputy Attorney General Jane E. Young’s office. He pleaded not guilty to that charge at arraignment Monday in Springfield District Court.
Massachusetts State Police said Zhukovskyy could also be charged with possessing illegal narcotics, as the agency’s lab is testing wax packets containing suspicious residue that were recovered from his home.
Attorney Donald Frank told CNN affiliate WGGB on Monday that his client is a “good guy involved in a terrible, negligent, as I read the complaint, negligent incident.”
Frank said his client spoke with authorities in New Hampshire after the crash and was told that he was allowed to leave the state. Frank said that Zhukovskyy planned to return to New Hampshire in July to answer to the charges before the arrest warrant was issued.