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Survivors of New Hampshire motorcycle crash that killed 7 urge a judge to keep trucker off the road

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Days before the five-year anniversary of a crash that killed seven motorcyclists, relatives and friends urged New Hampshire officials Wednesday not to allow the trucker involved back on the state’s roadways.

A jury in 2022 found Volodymyr Zhukovskyy not guilty of multiple manslaughter and negligent homicide counts stemming from the June 21, 2019, collision in Randolph that killed seven members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, an organization of Marine Corps veterans and their spouses in New England.

An administrative law judge for the Department of Safety in May said Zhukovskyy is subject to a state law that allows his license to be suspended for up to seven years. The hearing Wednesday was held to determine the length of the license suspension, a decision expected in the next 15 days.

The state is asking that Zhukovskyy’s license be suspended through 2031. The trucker’s attorney wants the suspension to end now by backdating the start to 2019 and suspending the final two years of the maximum for good behavior.

Wedneday’s hearing was dominated by witnesses who knew those who died or rode with them that day. They recounted the devastation wrought by the loss of parents and good friends and demanded that Zhukovskyy not get his license back. Many cited his history of collisions and driving infractions leading up to the 2019 crash.

“Someone that caused such incredible, horrible pain to so many people has the audacity to say ‘I want my privilege back,’” said David Bark, a member of the Jarheads. “It’s not a constitutional right to drive a car, to operate a motor vehicle on a public access highway. This is a privilege.”

Dawn Brindley, who was riding with the motorcyclists when the crash happened, was among several people who blamed Zhukovskyy for it despite him being found not guilty. She recalled “seeing bodies on fire and pieces of my friends scattered on the road” and said Zhukovskyy had scarred her forever.

“You don’t deserve to operate any type of vehicle in my state of New Hampshire,” she said. “You don’t deserve to be walking around free while families and loved ones that fell victim that day share the heartbreaking, horrific memories.”

David Hilts, representing the state, argued for the longest suspension possible, citing Zhukovskyy’s history of crashes and driving infractions.

“It is clear that the members of the traveling public in New Hampshire would be protected, and must be protected to the maximum extent possible by suspending Mr. Zhukovskyy’s nonresident operating privilege for as long as the law allows,” Hilts said.

Zhukovskky, appearing by video with his lawyer, expressed his “deepest condolences” to the victims of the crash and their families and said he had been sober for five years. “At this point, I don’t do drugs. I don’t drink or smoke. You know, I live a good, healthy lifestyle,” he said.

His lawyer, Earle Wingate III, urged the decision on the length of the suspension “not be made on emotion, but rather on the facts.”

Zhukovskyy’s Massachusetts license was automatically suspended in New Hampshire after his arrest following the crash, but he is seeking to get it reinstated.

At his trial, prosecutors argued that Zhukovskyy repeatedly swerved back and forth before the collision and told police he caused it.

At the time, Zhukovskyy’s license should have been revoked because he had been arrested in Connecticut on a drunken driving charge in May 2019. Connecticut officials alerted the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, but Zhukovskyy’s license wasn’t suspended due to a backlog of out-of-state notifications about driving offenses. The Connecticut case is pending.

Zhukovskyy, who came to the U.S. as a child from Ukraine and had permanent residency status, was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after the 2022 verdict. A judge ordered his deportation last year, but the U.S. has paused repatriation flights to Ukraine due to the war with Russia and authorized Temporary Protected Status for qualified Ukrainians.

By MICHAEL CASEY
Associated Press

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