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Driver ID’d in NH crash that killed 7 Marine motorcyclists

Highway Patrol investigating a vehicle accident. ( / file photo/TNS)

Authorities have identified the driver of the pickup truck they say struck and killed seven members of a Marine veterans motorcycle group as the investigation continues into the crash that caused carnage on a northern New Hampshire road Friday night.

New Hampshire State Police Col. Christopher Wagner spoke at a press conference nearly a full day after the crash, saying, “This is one of the worst, tragic incidents that we have investigated here in the state.”

About 6:30 p.m. Friday, a 2016 Dodge 2500 pickup truck towing a “quality trailer” that hauls cars was traveling west on Route 2 and struck several motorcycles that were heading eastbound, Wagner said. In all, about 10 motorcycles were involved in the crash, which killed seven people. Three others were injured, Wagner said. One person was med-flighted out-of-state and the other two were transported to area hospitals and later released.

Coos County Attorney John McCormick said no arrests had been made as of Saturday afternoon, adding, “I will pursue every lead and investigative avenue available.”

Officials said the investigation was in its beginning stages. Authorities identified the driver as Volodoymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, of West Springfield, Massachusetts. Zhukovskyy was working for Westfield Transport.

A man who identified himself as an owner of Westfield Transport but wouldn’t give his name said, “this is a nightmare in reality,” adding that he hasn’t slept since the crash.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said, “Yesterday’s tragedy has clearly struck our state and our citizens in a very profound way. First and foremost, I want to express our sincerest condolences to the victims and their families. I think it’s clear to say words cannot express the grief we call share in the loss of those seven individuals.”

The bikers were members of a Massachusetts chapter of Jarheads Motorcycle Club, a group of veterans and military personnel.

The chapter said in a statement, “5 patch members and two family members were killed, and several were injured with the most serious being flown to Maine for care. The survivors are staying at Mount Jefferson View for the rest of the weekend and at this time appreciate our privacy as we care for and heal our members and our family.”

The group had been getting ready for its annual meeting, which was planned for this weekend at a nearby American Legion post.

Police shut down Route 2 through Randolph for about 12 hours into Saturday morning, and used an unmanned drone to help canvass the scene.

“This is really described by our investigators as one of the worst investigations they have ever completed,” Wagner said. “I had my most senior investigators out last night and they had never seen the tragedy they had saw last night.”

Police are seeking information on the Dodge pickup truck, and anyone with videos, photographs or information about the accident scene or of the vehicle prior to the crash is asked to call New Hampshire State Police at 603-271-3636. Authorities did not say whether the driver remained on the scene, nor if drugs or alcohol – or factors like sunlight – were involved in the crash.

State and local police and first responders were on scene Friday night and Saturday morning, along with the state attorney general’s office and department of transportation. Victims services advocates were also deployed. The National Transportation Safety Board mobilized a team to Randolph on Saturday, which is expected to conduct its own investigation over the next five or so days.

National Transportation Safety Bureau investigator Kenny Bragg said investigators would focus on the factors affecting the driver, the mechanical condition of the pickup truck, and the “survivability of the motorcycle operators.” The NTSB looks to issue safety recommendations based on its findings.

New Hampshire Deputy Attorney General Jane Young said autopsies began Saturday morning on the seven crash victims. She said their names will not be released until all of their families have been contacted.

“This is a fluid and ongoing investigation,” Young said.

Helmets are not required of motorcyclists in New Hampshire.

Asked about that law, Sununu said, “At this point there’s no evidence, given the horrific significance of what happened, whether it was helmet or no helmet was going to provide provide some survivability. The no helmet issue is something the state has been dealing with for ages … We don’t see any movement on that coming forward.”


© 2019 the Boston Herald

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.