BOSTON — The head of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles resigned Tuesday amid revelations that the truck driver accused of vehicular homicide in the death of seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire was able to keep his commercial driver's license despite a drunk driving arrest last month and a history of other serious traffic violations.
The resignation of Erin Deveney, registrar of the Massachusetts RMV, is effective immediately, Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said.
Deveney's departure comes after Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, a 23-year-old truck driver from Springfield, Massachusetts, was charged on seven counts of vehicular homicide. A pickup truck and trailer that he was driving Friday crossed a double-yellow line on a highway and collided with a group of motorcycle riders in the rural town of Randolph en route to a nearby veterans fundraiser.
Zhukovskyy has pleaded not guilty. The riders were members of Marine Jarheads MC, a motorcycle club that includes Marines and their spouses.
“The loss of life in any motor vehicle crash is a terrible tragedy and the massive toll this crash is taking on the families of the seven individuals who lost their lives, many of whom served this country, is impossible to comprehend," Pollack said in a statement.
"The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles has a responsibility to enforce the laws governing safe operation of vehicles and carries out its mission to the best of its abilities. But in this case, the RMV had not acted on information provided by the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles about a May 11 incident that should have triggered termination of this individual’s commercial driver’s license."
Pollack said she's accepted the resignation. Zhukovskyy, who was driving for the Massachusetts company Westfield Transport, has a long list of traffic infractions that go back to his teen years. Most recently, WCVB-TV reported Tuesday, he was involved in a June 3 rollover crash on an interstate in Texas. No one was injured.
He was arrested for drunken driving in 2013 and his license was suspended. Last month, he was arrested in a Walmart parking lot in East Windsor, Connecticut, after he failed a sobriety test. Police had been dispatched after he was seen revving his vehicle and jumping around outside the vehicle.
During that arrest, Zhukovskyy made "suicidal comments" and exhibited "extreme behavior," according to a report filed by East Windsor police, prompting them to send him to a Hartford hospital for treatment. He was released on a $2,500 non-surety bond.
In a lengthy statement, MassDOT sought to explain how Zhukovskyy was able to keep his commercial license despite his record.
According to MassDOT, Zhukovskyy's 2013 OUI charge would not have disqualified him from receiving the commercial license under state and federal law. He was under the age of 21 at the time of the violation and served suspensions and attended education classes including a youth alcohol program as a result of the violation.
But MassDOT said the May 11 OUI violations – in which he refused a chemical test – should have triggered his commercial license to be automatically revoked under Massachusetts law. His non-commercial driver's license should have been subject to a seven-day notification process for suspension.
The Registry of Motor Vehicles follows state and federal guidelines regarding license suspensions or revocations for various types of licenses, according to MassDOT. When an incident occurs out of state, the department said, that state is supposed to provide information to the state where the individual is licensed.
But MassDOT's statement says that "to the RMV’s knowledge, Connecticut failed to provide sufficient information" through the federal commercial driver's license system following Zhukovskyy's May 11 arrest. Doing so would have automatically applied the charges to his Massachusetts driving record and result in the immediate termination of his commercial driver's license, according to MassDOT.
Instead, MassDOT said the Connecticut DMV on May 29 sent a communication to the Massachusetts RMV through the the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators messaging system – the state-to-state messaging system for registries – regarding Zhukovskyy’s May 11th OUI.
A communication breakdown
According to MassDOT, Connecticut's May 29 online communication did not contain sufficient information to automatically input Zhukovskyy’s OUI into his Massachusetts driving record and, therefore, did not automatically trigger the seven-day notification process for his non-commercial license suspension.
"While the RMV system could not automatically process the communication, it generated a notification requiring manual review," the statement reads. "This review had not been performed by RMV personnel as of June 23, which is why the May 11 chemical test refusal does not appear on Zhukovskyy’s driving record and why his license had not been suspended in Massachusetts."
MassDOT did not reference Zhukovskyy’s June 3 Texas crash in its statement.
In that incident, WCVB-TV reported Zhukovskyy told police he was trying to avoid a car that had swerved in front of him. He was driving a red Mack truck car hauler with a Massachusetts registration.
Police said there were no injuries in the accident, no signs of intoxication and no citations reported, the television station reported. In February, Zhukovskyy was arrested at Baytown, Texas restaurant at 2 a.m. after police responded to a call about an intoxicated individual. According to WCBV-TV, police found him at a counter making gestures with his arms and rambling. He was arrested for drug paraphernalia after officers found a drug pipe on him.
Deveney, who had led the Massachusetts RMV since 2015, has been replaced by MassDOT Chief Operating Officer Jamey Tesler, who will serve as acting registrar.
Tesler been tasked by Pollack with leading a review of the registry’s state-to-state data sharing processes to "ensure the RMV acts as quickly as possible on any information shared by other states.
Follow Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How did he still have a license? Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles boss quits after crash kills 7