NATIONAL NEWS

License suspension extended for 2 years for a trucker acquitted in a deadly motorcycle crash

Jul 11, 2024, 10:40 AM

FILE - Volodymyr Zhukovskyy looks back at the gallery before closing statements at his trial at Coo...

FILE - Volodymyr Zhukovskyy looks back at the gallery before closing statements at his trial at Coos County Superior Court, in Lancaster, N.H., Aug. 9, 2022. The commercial truck driver who was acquitted in the 2019 deaths of seven motorcyclists won't be eligible to get his license back for another two years, New Hampshire safety officials said Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (David Lane/Union Leader via AP, Pool, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(David Lane/Union Leader via AP, Pool, File)

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A commercial truck driver who was acquitted in the 2019 deaths of seven motorcyclists won’t be eligible to get his license back for another two years, New Hampshire safety officials said.

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.

Zhukovskyy’s Massachusetts license was automatically suspended in New Hampshire after his arrest following the crash, but he sought to reinstate it earlier this year. An administrative law judge for the Department of Safety upheld the suspension in May, and after a hearing last month, issued an order Wednesday extending it until June 2026, seven years after the crash.

Seven years is the maximum allowed under the law. The state had argued the clock should start this year, meaning the license would remain suspended until 2031. Zhukovskyy’s lawyer wanted the suspension lifted by backdating the start to 2019 and suspending the final two years of the maximum for good behavior.

Judge Ryan McFarland said he took into account Zhukovskyy’s testimony that he has been sober for five years and that he has changed his life since the accident. But aggravating factors far outweighed the mitigating factors, he said.

“This is an accident that did not have to occur. The testimony is clear that there were warning signs for the respondent to recognize that his driving behavior was not reasonable or safe and he should have pulled over to address any issues,” wrote McFarland. “The loss of human life, especially seven individuals that were so deeply loved, must be given more weight than the inconvenience related to a loss of driving privilege.”

At his trial, prosecutors argued that Zhukovskyy — who had taken heroin, fentanyl and cocaine the day of the crash — repeatedly swerved back and forth before the collision and told police he caused it. But a judge dismissed eight impairment charges and his attorneys said the lead biker was drunk and not looking where he was going when he lost control of his motorcycle and slid in front of Zhukovskyy’s truck, which was pulling an empty flatbed trailer.

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.

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License suspension extended for 2 years for a trucker acquitted in a deadly motorcycle crash