Five men and two women were killed Friday when their motorcycles and a pickup truck driven by a Massachusetts man collided in a horrific crash in the White Mountains area in New Hampshire, officials said.
The motorcyclists were traveling to a bike gathering in northern New Hampshire when they were allegedly struck by Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, who was driving a 2016 Dodge 2500 that was towing a flatbed, about 6:30 p.m. on Route 2, authorities said.
Some of the bikers involved in the crash were part of the Jarheads MC, a motorcycle club comprised of veterans and active Marines. Several members were among those killed, as was a single mom of two and a couple married 35 years.
Desma Oakes, a 42-year-old mother to two boys, worked to help others after she lost her husband and youngest son to cancer, loved ones said.
Oakes’ son, Ryan Jacob Oickle, was just four when he lost a long battle with cancer in May 2009. Three years later, on Christmas Day in 2012, Oakes’ husband of 15 years, George Oickle, died of small-cell carcinoma.
“She wasn’t a person who just took, she was a person who gave and participated,” her father, Dan Cook, told the Boston Globe.
Oakes volunteered with Childhood Cancer Lifeline of New Hampshire, an organization that offers financial help to families dealing with childhood cancer.
“Last night I lost one of the biggest influences of my life and the one who brought me into this world,” Oakes’ other son wrote on Facebook after the crash. “If anyone on my Facebook rides a bike passenger or driver. Please stay safe.”
Oakes was riding on the same motorcycle with her boyfriend, Aaron Perry, a 45-year-old Marine Corps veteran, who also was killed in the crash, the Globe wrote.
Jo-Ann and Edward Corr, both 58, of Lakeville, Massachusetts, were also riding on the same motorcycle at the time of the crash, officials said. Had they survived, the couple would have celebrated 36 years of marriage on July 2.
“Requiescat in Pace,” Latin for “Rest in Peace,” one friend wrote on Jo-Ann’s Facebook page. “Together in life, together in eternity. We will hold your family in prayer.”
Edward was a Marine Corps veteran and studied military history and combat tactics, according to his Facebook.
Veterans Michael Ferazzi, 62, Albert Mazza, 59, and Daniel Pereira, 58, were also killed in the crash, officials said. All seven victims died as a result of blunt trauma, New Hampshire Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jennie Duval determined.
The group was about 50 yards away from their lodging, and they were traveling between 30 and 35 miles per hour when the crash occurred, Steven Lewis told the Globe. Lewis, 57, was five or six motorcycles behind his best friend, Pereira, when the truck and trailer allegedly veered into the group.
“I saw parts flying in front of me,” Lewis said. “My friend Dan [Pereira] was in front of me; I saw his bike get hit by the trailer and just start to break apart in pieces and the next thing you know, I got hit and I ended up flying over the trailer and landing in the road.”
Lewis suffered scrapes, bruises and a swollen hand in the crash, and was taken to a hospital to be treated for his injuries. Three others were severely injured in the crash.
After he was discharged, Lewis immediately traveled to be with Periera’s family.
“My best friend isn’t here,” Lewis said, his voice breaking. “I’m not going to see that smile. I’m not going to get any practical jokes pulled on me that he liked to do… Part of me is gone. And it’s a good part.”
Zhukovskyy, the driver of the truck, who was driving for Westfield Transportation in West Springfield at the time, was not injured in the crash. He was arrested at his West Springfield home Monday and charged with seven counts of negligent homicide, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office said.
He appeared in Springfield District Court Monday, where he reportedly said he would not fight extradition back to New Hampshire to face the charges. It was not immediately clear when he would make his first court appearance in New Hampshire.
At the time of Friday's crash, Zhukovskyy was free on $2,500 bond in a pending drunk driving case in Connecticut, court records viewed by the Globe showed.
He had his license suspended after being arrested for allegedly operating under the influence in Westfield in June 2013, records obtained by the Globe showed. He was sentenced to a year of probation and saw his license suspended for 210 days in that case. There were no fatalities in that case, but police asked that an immediate threat suspension be issued at the time, arguing that Zhukovskyy was a danger to other people on the road.
In addition to the negligent homicide counts, Zhukovskyy could face drug charges in connection to Friday's crash. During his arrest Monday, Massachusetts troopers allegedly found "wax packets containing a residue suspected of being heroin," agency spokesman David Procopio said in an email to the Globe.
The residue will be tested by police, Procopio said.