Photo courtesy of New Hampshire State Police

NTSB Points To Truck Driver For Deaths In NH Crash

WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board has ruled that “a pickup driver under the influence of illicit drugs” likely caused the horrific crash on Route 2 in Randolph, NH in June 2019 that killed seven motorcyclists.

The NTSB announced Tuesday that it has determined that then-23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovskyy “crossed the centerline of the two-lane highway and struck the lead motorcycle” of a group of 15 motorcycles and seven passengers.

“That collision began a crash sequence involving 13 of the 15 motorcycles,” the NTSB reported in a public meeting. “In addition to the seven people killed, one motorcyclist was seriously injured. The pickup driver was uninjured.”

Volodymyr Zhukovskyy

The NTSB reported that Zhukovskyy had a long history of drug abuse and that he told police that he had used both heroin and cocaine the day of the crash.

“Post-crash tests confirmed the presence of those drugs in the driver’s system, in addition to morphine and fentanyl, also highly impairing drugs,” the NTSB said, adding that investigators determined that “the use of multiple drugs caused the impairment that likely led to the crash.”

Additional Blame Assessed

However, the NTSB also placed blame on the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles for allowing Zhukovskyy to drive for a trucking company despite having previous infractions. Zhukovskyy drove for Westfield Transport, which went out of business shortly after the crash.

“This horrific crash was avoidable at many levels,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt.

“The pickup truck driver was impaired from the use of multiple drugs. The motor carrier had an egregious disregard for safety and the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles failed to suspend the driver’s license for an offense in Connecticut. There are systems to catch these things and they all failed.”

The NTSB’s press release announcing the board’s ruling explained, “The driver, who held a Massachusetts commercial driver’s license, was arrested in Connecticut on May 11, 2019, after failing a field sobriety test and refusing a urine drug test. The driver’s privileges were suspended in Connecticut about five weeks before the crash in New Hampshire.  

“Connecticut sent notices of the arrest both electronically and by mail to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), where state law would have led to immediate suspension of the driver’s license to operate any kind of motor vehicle. Although the Massachusetts RMV received both the electronic and paper notices by May 29, 2019, no action to suspend the license was taken before the fatal June 21 crash. 

“Investigators said had the Massachusetts RMV taken timely action, the driver would not have had a valid license when he was hired by the interstate motor carrier, Westfield Transport, just two days before the crash. The NTSB concluded the problems with state-to-state notifications were not limited to Massachusetts and recommended states review their procedures for sending and receiving driver infraction and suspension notices and to remedy any deficiencies identified in the reviews.

“The NTSB said although Westfield Transport successfully completed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) new entrant safety assurance program in January 2018, the three-year-old carrier exhibited a ‘substantial disregard for federal motor carrier safety regulations’ and was a ‘motor carrier without regard for safety.'”

NTSB photo by Peter Knudson

Zhukovskyy has been in jail since being arrested following the crash. He has pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide and driving under the influence. The Associated Press has reported that his lawyers “have argued an independent analysis showed one motorcyclist was drunk and was the one who hit the pickup and caused the crash.”

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Since 2010, RIDE-CT & RIDE-NewEngland has been reporting about motorcycling in New England and portions of New York.