RANDOLPH — State officials said they will announce Friday the route and safety plan for a major motorcycle ride-in planned for Saturday here to the site of a fatal crash that on June 21 killed seven members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club.
The Jarheads is made up of Marines and Navy Corpsmen. The majority of the group was staying at the Mount Jefferson View campground on Route 2 on June 21 when a number of them got into the eastbound lane of the highway for what was supposed to be short trip to the American Legion Post 82 in Gorham. On June 22, the Jarheads were scheduled to hold their annual meeting at the Post.
But about two-tenths of a mile into the trip, the Jarheads encountered a westbound pick-up truck towing a car trailer operated by Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, of West Springfield, Mass.
Zhukovskyy crossed into the eastbound lane, striking and killing seven riders and injuring three others. He is currently being held at the Coos County House of Corrections on seven counts of negligent homicide.
Almost immediately after the crash, a memorial sprang up at the crash site to honor “the Fallen 7” – Desma Oakes, of Concord; Aaron Perry, of Farmington; Michael Ferazzi, of Contoocook; Albert Mazza, of Lee; Joanne and Edward Corr, of Lakeville, Mass.; and Daniel Pereira, of Riverside R.I. – and has continued to grow.
Simultaneously, what began as an informal July 6 memorial ride has grown to potentially include upwards of a thousand motorcyclists or more. The riders were to congregate at locations throughout the state before massing in The Weirs section of Laconia for the ride to Randolph.
Media reports said New Hampshire State Police, which did not respond to an inquiry from the Union Leader on Wednesday, would not be able to provide ride-along service due to liability concerns. The riders, once they got into Meredith, were expected to go east on Route 25 to Route 16 north and from there to Gorham and west onto Route 2.
More recently, the route was said to go west on Route 104 to Interstate 93 to Exit 35 onto Route 3 and from there, to Route 115 east and Route 2.
State Police Col. Christopher Wagner, in a prepared statement Wednesday, said state safety officials met earlier in the day with ride organizers.
“Public safety is our top priority,” said Wagner. “It’s incredibly important that travelers do their part by remembering to obey the rules of the road and share the road with riders.”
Route 2 in the area of the crash site is narrow and the speed limit there is 55 miles per hour. The ever-growing memorial to the Fallen 7 has prompted the NH Department of Transportation to place digital signs on either sides of it warning of possible activity in the roadway as people stop to add items, say a prayer and, frequently, to have their photos taken.
Zhukovskyy, who was employed by a Massachusetts trucking company at the time of the crash, has pleaded not guilty. He is a native of the Ukraine and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has also issued an immigration detainer for him pending “ongoing removal proceedings.”