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ICE lays claim to driver accused in deadly NH motorcycle crash

 Volodymyr Zhukovskyy
Volodymyr Zhukovskyy (WCAX)
Published: Jun. 26, 2019 at 1:38 PM EDT
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The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency is taking steps to ensure a Ukrainian-born truck driver whose collision with motorcyclists in New Hampshire left seven dead remains in custody even if his criminal case were dismissed.

Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, is being held without bail in the Coos County House of Corrections. He pleaded not guilty Tuesday to seven counts of negligent homicide in Friday's crash.

Zhukovskyy's father told the Boston Herald that his son is a Ukrainian citizen and has permanent resident status in the U.S.

Jail Superintendent Ben Champagne said ICE placed a detainer on Zhukovskyy on Tuesday. A detainer means even if the case were to be dismissed, Zhukovskyy would be turned over to ICE for possible deportation.

A spokesperson for ICE confirmed that a detainer was issued. Messages were left for ICE and Zhukovskyy's public defender, Melissa Davis, seeking comment.

Meanwhile, the head of the Massachusetts motor vehicle division has resigned for failing to terminate Zhukovskyy's commercial driving license.

Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack said in a statement that the Registry of Motor Vehicles failed to act on information provided by the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles about an incident involving Zhukovskyy that should have cost him his license. As a result, she accepted the resignation of Erin Deveney.

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

Zhukovskyy, a driver for a transport company who has a history of traffic arrests, was ordered Tuesday to remain in preventive detention, with a judge saying his driving record poses a potential danger to the public and himself.

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.

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.

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.

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.

According to an Associated Press analysis of federal data, Westfield Transport of Massachusetts, has faced more than 60 violations in the last 24 months. That's according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data updated Tuesday.

The company's rate of vehicles being kept off roads because of violations is 20.8% - a figure nearly four times greater than the national average of 5.5%.

No one answered the phone Wednesday at the company's office. 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.

Copyright 2019 Associated Press. All rights reserved.