CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The last rider in a group of Marine motorcycle club members testified Wednesday that he saw a “ball of flame” and then a truck “plowing through motorcycles like a bowling ball” in a 2019 crash in New Hampshire that killed seven bikers.
Michael McEachern testified in the trial of the truck driver, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy. He said he saw the westbound truck, which was pulling a flatbed trailer, hit some of the eastbound riders shortly after the group left a motel to head to an American Legion post for a meeting that June 21.
He said he tried to help them, but he saw that some had died, including a husband and wife found underneath the truck’s front bumper.
“After I saw that I couldn’t do anything for them, I covered them up,” he said.
Another rider who died was thrown off a bike and found in the woods, he said. One was slumped over bushes. Another was pinned under the trailer.
McEachern saw that the truck was on fire. He ran into the driver.
“He just jumped out of the truck, started screaming, ‘What did I do, What did I do? Mommy, Mommy! Oh my God, Oh my God!’” McEachern testified in state superior court in Lancaster.
He said he tried to keep Zhukovskyy away from the burning truck, but that Zhukovskyy made trips back to the vehicle to retrieve items.
McEachern said he asked Zhukovskyy what had happened. “He mentioned he lost control of the trailer,” he said.
Zhukovskyy, 26, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of negligent homicide, manslaughter, driving under the influence and reckless conduct. He’s been in jail since the crash.
Prosecutors said Zhukovskyy had taken drugs that day and was driving recklessly. But his lawyers said he was not impaired at the time. They said the president of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, Albert “Woody” Mazza, who led the pack of riders, was drunk, lost control of his motorcycle, and came into contact with Zhukovskyy’s truck first, causing the crash. Mazza died.
Two riders traveling closer to Mazza testified that part of the truck had crossed the yellow line, and then hit Mazza.
“His bike went flying backwards,” said Valerie Ribeiro, who was a passenger on her husband’s motorcycle. “Just like a toy flying through the air.
“Everything was on fire. It was motorcycle parts everywhere. It was like a bomb had gone off,” she testified.
She said Wednesday the “front quarter” of the truck was over the line. But defense attorney Steve Mirkin said Ribeiro did not mention that in her initial statement to police the day after the crash.
Another rider who also was traveling near Mazza testified that the truck’s left front tire was over the line, possibly by as much as a foot, before the truck hit Mazza’s motorcycle. However, Mirkin pointed out the rider told police a few days after the crash that the tire was on top of the yellow line, “or even more so.”
Other motorcyclists who were in the back of the group testified Wednesday that they saw Mazza drinking beer earlier that day, but that they did not see any signs that he was impaired.
The motorcyclists who died were from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island and ranged in age from 42 to 62. They were part of a larger group that had just left a motel along U.S. Route 2 in Randolph.
Killed were Mazza, of Lee, New Hampshire; Edward and Jo-Ann Corr, a couple from Lakeville, Massachusetts; Michael Ferazzi, of Contoocook, New Hampshire; Desma Oakes, of Concord, New Hampshire; Daniel Pereira, of Riverside, Rhode Island; and Aaron Perry, of Farmington, New Hampshire.
Several bikers were also injured.