A pickup driver's drug use was the reason he crashed last year into an oncoming group of motorcyclists in New Hampshire, leading to the deaths of seven bikers, the National Transportation Safety Board found Tuesday. The board unanimously approved a report that determined that Volodymyr Zhukovskyy's impairment from the drugs was the "probable cause" for his crossing the center line on a rural, two-lane highway and sparking the crash. Zhukovskyy was returning from delivering vehicles for a Massachusetts transport company and was towing an empty flatbed trailer. NTSB investigators told the board that Zhukovskyy had drugs, including opioids, in his system, the AP reports. They also said witnesses had reported him driving erratically. Zhukovskyy, of West Springfield, Massachusetts, pleaded not guilty to negligent homicide and driving under the influence. He remains in custody as he awaits trial next year.
"Very sadly, the circumstances of this crash underscore the rising concern regarding the impact of multi-substance impairment on transportation safety," NTSB member Thomas Chapman said during the virtual hearing. "Our own research in this area indicates the instances of drug-impaired driving is increasing at even greater rates than alcohol-impaired driving." Investigators ruled out cellphone use or weather as factors. They couldn't rule out fatigue but concluded that its effects were unclear because of the drug use. The crash happened June 21, 2019, in Randolph. The seven bikers were members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, a New England group that includes Marines and their spouses. The victims were from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Investigators found that some bikers, including the lead motorcyclist, were impaired by alcohol but that it wasn't the reason for the crash. (Hundreds of motorcyclists mourned the victims.)