by: MICHAEL CASEY and MARINA VILLENEUVE, Associated Press
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The company that employed a Ukrainian-born truck driver whose collision with motorcyclists in New Hampshire left seven dead has a history of violations including mechanical problems and drug-related infractions.
Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, is being held without bail in Coos County jail. He pleaded not guilty Tuesday to negligent homicide in Friday’s crash .
Since the crash, it has emerged that Zhukovskyy had multiple run-ins with the law. The company he was driving for, Westfield Transport, also has a troubled history.
According to an Associated Press analysis of federal data, Westfield Transport, based in Massachusetts, has faced over 60 violations over the last 24 months, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data updated Tuesday.
About one in five inspections of its vehicles ended with federal investigators issuing temporary orders saying the carrier was not authorized to operate. The company’s out-of-service rate is 20.8% — a figure nearly four times greater than the national average of 5.5%.
Federal records show the company has faced seven violations for unsafe driving, which includes speeding in March 2018. That same month, the company faced two violations reported in Massachusetts and Vermont of drivers who were in possession of a narcotic drug or amphetamine.
The company also received 11 other violations related to the fitness of its drivers, including an April violation for driving without a commercial driver’s license. Vehicle violations included inoperable head lamps in April and defective brakes in March.
No one answered the phone Wednesday at the company’s office.
“It’s so preventable. It’s so unnecessary,” said Harry Adler, executive director of the Truck Safety Coalition, an advocacy group calling for more federal action on passing stricter truck safety regulations. “When you have these repeated violations, it speaks to the company’s commitment of being a safe operator on the road.”
But in a brief interview with NECN-TV on Monday, the company owner, Dartanyan Gasanov, called the crash a “horrible accident.” He refused to address questions about Zhukovskyy, who had been on the job only three days. He said the company is cooperating with investigators.
Zhukovskyy was arrested Monday at Massachusetts home. The Dodge pickup he was driving was towing a flatbed trailer and collided with the motorcycles in Randolph, investigators said. He was driving erratically and crossed the center line, according to criminal complaints.
Jury selection in his criminal trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 8.
Prosecutors in Connecticut said Zhukovskyy was arrested last month after failing a sobriety test. His lawyer in that case said Zhukovskyy denies being intoxicated.
Zhukovskyy also has a history of traffic arrests.
Additionally, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is taking steps to ensure Zhukovskyy remains in custody even if his criminal case were dismissed. It would not say why it was targeting Zhukovskyy, who is a permanent resident according to his father. A message was left with Melissa Davis, a public defender for Zhukovskyy.