HAVERHILL — A longtime local resident was among seven motorcyclists killed by a truck on a rural New Hampshire highway Friday, according to the man’s family.
Albert Mazza Jr., 59, lived in Lee, New Hampshire, at the the time of his death, but his childhood and most of his life was spent in Haverhill, his uncle Joseph Mazza said.
Mazza was among those killed when a pickup truck towing a flatbed trailer collided with 10 motorcycles on Route 2 in Randolph, New Hampshire.
The younger Mazza worked his way through Haverhill public schools, graduated from Haverhill High School and joined the Marines, during which time he attended boot camp at Parris Island. He eventually started his own roof repair business.
His father, Albert Mazza, said riding and racing motorcycles, snowmobiles and 4-wheelers was a tradition passed down from father to son.
“He grew up with that. I bought him his first dirt bike at 10 or 12 years old,” the victim’s father said. “He’s kind of always been around them.”
The senior Mazza said he had not seen his son in 20 years, since he moved to North Carolina and their lives diverged.
His granddaughter called over the weekend about the motorcycle accident, he said. She explained that her dad died after being taken to a hospital.
At a press conference Sunday, New Hampshire State Police identified Mazza and the others killed in the crash. All were either members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club or supporters of it, officials said. The members of the motorcycle club are active duty or retired Marines.
Investigators have identified the driver of the pickup truck as 23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovskyy of West Springfield, an employee of a Springfield, Massachusetts-area transportation company. At the time of the crash, the pickup truck was pulling a trailer, police said.
Zhukovskyy was taken into police custody on a fugitive-from-justice charge Monday morning, a statement from investigators said. They said the charge is based on an arrest warrant charging Zhukovskyy with seven counts of negligent homicide. He will be arraigned Tuesday in Lancaster, New Hampshire, authorities said.
He was handed over to New Hampshire authorities after a brief court appearance Monday in Springfield. Zhukovskyy looked down at his feet as he was led into the courtroom with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Authorities said he has a record of arrests for drunken driving.
Connecticut prosecutors say he was arrested May 11 in an East Windsor Walmart parking lot after failing a sobriety test. Officers had responded to a complaint about a man who was revving his truck engine and jumping up and down outside the vehicle.
Zhukovskyy’s lawyer in that case, John O’Brien, said he denies being intoxicated and will fight the charge. Zhukovskyy refused to submit to a blood test, prosecutors said.
Additionally, Zhukovskyy was arrested on a drunken-driving charge in 2013 in Westfield, state motor vehicle records show. He was placed on probation for one year and had his license suspended for 210 days, The Westfield News reported.
Records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicate that the company Zhukovskyy was driving for, Westfield Transport, has been cited for various violations in the last two years, MassLive.com reported.
There were two instances where drivers were in possession of narcotic drugs. Other violations including a driver without a commercial driver’s license, one for speeding and another for defective brakes.
The company did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
A man who answered the phone at the home of Zhukovskyy’s family and would identify himself only as his brother-in-law said Monday that the family is in shock and feeling the same pain as everyone else but couldn’t say whether the driver was right or wrong.
Since the accident, the brother-in-law said, Zhukovskyy had remained in his room, not eaten and talked to no one.
Defense attorney Donald Frank called the crash a “tragedy,” but said it’s important to let the criminal justice system play out.
George Loring, a Jarheads member who lives in Hingham and was a few hundred yards from the crash, said Zhukovskyy has “got to live with it for the rest of his life.”
“Everyone’s suffering so much,” Loring said. “It’s so sad for the brothers and sisters who died. You can be angry at him, you can be whatever. I don’t know. I’m glad he’s been arrested.”
Mazza’s uncle, Joseph Mazza, welcomed the arrest but called it a poor consolation for the loss of a loved one.
“As long as he pays a price. He has caused lot of harm to a lot of families,” Joseph Mazza said from his Haverhill home. “If he has a problem, he shouldn’t be on the road. If he is a bad actor, he doesn’t belong on the street. He caused enough of a tragedy. Enough is enough.”
Authorities have only said they are investigating the cause of the collision.
Jarheads President Manny Ribeiro, who survived the crash, said the group had just finished dinner and was heading to a fundraiser at an American Legion post in nearby Gorham. A total of 21 riders and 15 motorcycles were in the group. Ten motorcycles, including Mazza, who was riding next to Ribeiro, were hit.
“It was just an explosion ... with parts and Al and everything flying through the air,” he said. “He turned hard left into us and took out pretty much everyone behind me. The truck and trailer stayed attached and that is why it was so devastating ... because the trailer was attached and it was such a big trailer, it was like a whip. It just cleaned us out.”
After the crash, Ribeiro recalled seeing Zhukovskyy “screaming and running around” in the middle of the road before he was taken away by authorities. Motorcycles and bodies were everywhere, he said, and several people were yelling at Zhukovskyy, demanding to know what he had just done.
“It was very surreal,” he said, adding that he had put a tourniquet on the leg of one rider who remains hospitalized in Maine.
“I saw Al. I knew he was gone right away,” he continued. “At that point, we just tried to figure out who needed help and got to work. There was debris everywhere and the truck was on fire. I was just looking for survivors, familiar faces and trying to find out who I had lost and ... trying to help the living.”
Zhukovskyy was questioned at the scene of the crash and allowed to return to Massachusetts, the National Transportation Safety Board has said.
Authorities identified the dead as Michael Ferazzi, 62, of Contoocook, New Hampshire; Mazza, 59, of Lee, New Hampshire; Desma Oakes, 42, of Concord, New Hampshire; Aaron Perry, 45, of Farmington, New Hampshire; Daniel Pereira, 58, of Riverside, Rhode Island; and Jo-Ann and Edward Corr, both 58, of Lakeville, Massachusetts.
The state medical examiner determined each victim died of blunt trauma.
An online fundraising page started by a member of the club said the victims were riding to a charity event at the local American Legion in Gorham. The page garnered attention from 6,500 people in two days — with a growing collection of $326,000.
New Hampshire State Police Col. Chris Wagner called the crash “one of the worst tragic incidents” investigated in New Hampshire.
he Associated Press contributed to this report.