ICE wants truck driver blamed for 7 deaths

{child_byline}By Mark Hayward

New Hampshire Union Leader


LANCASTER — Even before a New Hampshire judge had ordered Volodymyr Zhukovskyy held without bail on Tuesday, the federal government issued a hold on the man facing seven negligent homicide charges in the death of seven motorcyclists in the White Mountains last Friday.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued an immigration detainer Monday on Zhukovskyy, a native Ukrainian, the day he arrived at the Coos County House of Correction, said Ben Champagne, superintendent of the jail, which is located in West Stewartstown.

The detainer asks jail officials not to free Zhukovskyy because he could likely be removed from the country, Champagne said.

The detainer cites the “pendency of ongoing removal proceedings.”

It’s not as if Zhukovskyy, 23, of West Springfield, Mass., is going anywhere. He waived his right to be arraigned before a judge on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty in paperwork filed with the court.

Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein ordered Zhukovskyy confined to the county jail without bail for preventive detention reasons.

“Defendant’s criminal and driving history exhibit a pattern of operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner. If released, he will likely present a danger to the safety of defendant or the public,” reads a bail order signed by Bornstein.

Texas incidents

Zhukovskyy was involved in two incidents in Baytown, Texas, a city of 85,000 in the Houston metropolitan area.

Most recently on June 3, he was driving a Mack tractor-trailer cab pulling a trailer with five cars on it on Interstate 10 when he flipped it onto its side at 10:15 p.m.

“He told officers that a car had cut him off and in trying to swerve from the car he lost control and flipped the vehicle,” said Baytown police Lt. Steve Dorris, the department’s public information officer.

“We never were able to locate that other car, he was not injured and there were no violations resulting from it.”

Zhukovskyy was driving a truck owned by FBI Express Inc., a motor carrier in West Springfield, Mass. according to police records.

In the Randolph tragedy, Zhukovskyy was driving a Dodge truck pulling an empty car-carrying flatbed trailer for Westfield Transport Inc. of West Springfield, Mass.

Dorris said last Feb. 11, officers came upon Zhukovskyy at 2 a.m. that morning outside a Denny’s restaurant.

“He was acting intoxicated on something either alcohol or drugs and was jumping up and down. Officers patted him down and located a crack pipe on his person and he was charged with possessing drug paraphernalia,” Dorris said.

NH charges

The seven complaints charge Zhukovskyy with negligent homicide but offer little insight into the tragic accident, which killed members and supporters of the Jarheads motorcycle club riding to a fundraiser at in Gorham.

Meanwhile, a Go Fund Me page established to support the families and surviving victims of the crash had raised $422,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.

The complaints brought by the office of Coos County Attorney John McCormick allege Zhukovskyy was driving a 2016 Dodge 2500 pickup hauling an attached trailer westbound on Route 2 “erratically and across the double-yellow center line.”

The complaint designates the charge as a Class B felony. State law calls for a stiffer charge — a Class A felony — only if a person is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs while driving.

Bornstein set a date of Nov. 8 for jury selection and a trial for sometime in November and December, but those are flexible dates. Prosecutors generally have 90 days, which would be in late September, to seek an indictment, but that too can be extended by a judge’s order.He is being represented by public defender Melissa Lynn Davis.

If Bornstein changed his mind and releases Zhukovskyy in the future, he must surrender his passport and have no contact with 14 people, nearly all of them survivors of the accident or relatives of those who died. But Champagne said that the detainer would prevent him from releasing Zhukovskyy. Rather, he would contact ICE, which would take him into custody.

Suspected heroin residue was found in packages at Zhukovskyy’s home during his arrest Monday, according to authorities, but he has yet to face any narcotics charge stemming from that discovery. Massachusetts authorities have said the wax packages will have to be tested before he can be charged.

Class B felonies are punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Union Leader reporter Kevin Landrigan contributed to this repoort.