Crash victim grateful for support: seven bikers were killed in June crash, driver awaits trial
PITTSFIELD — Joshua Morin remembers lying on a rural New Hampshire Road on June 21, looking down and seeing his femur jutting out through his skin.
The Dalton resident was among the 10 Marine Jarhead motorcyclists that were struck by a pickup truck hauling a trailer. Seven of the victims were killed and the driver, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, has been charged in their deaths.
"I felt the blow of the truck, took a shot to the shoulder and then I must have lost consciousness for a minute," Morin said Thursday from his couch at home. "Then, I was on the ground and I looked at my leg ... It was squirting out blood and I could see the top part swelling in my jeans."
Morin, who was treated for his many injuries in an acute care setting from June 21 to Sept. 10, is still recovering and travels to and from Maine with his wife for follow-up surgeries and care. Having been out of work since the summer, Morin, a traveling nurse, said he's grateful for the financial and emotional support he's received from the community over the last few months.
On Monday, the Berkshire County Builders & Remodelers Association, with donations from a variety of local companies, will finish building a wheelchair ramp to make it easier for him to come and go from his home.
"The only reason we're surviving here is because the community support has been huge," Morin said.
"I manage the stairs now, but you got one small step, then one long step," he said. "Sometimes I use the wheelchair to go out and about."
On the day of the crash, Morin had traveled from Dalton to Randolph, N.H., to spend the weekend camping and riding with other Jarheads.
Morin arrived on Friday afternoon and, after the group grilled up dinner at their lodge, they planned on heading to a nearby American Legion in Gorham that was struggling financially.
"We were gonna go down there and throw some money in their coffers and have a good time," he recalled.
Just before 6:30 p.m., the Jarheads, a club made up of Marines and their spouses, got into formation.
Club President Albert "Woody" Mazza Jr., was out front. Morin and Manny "Rib" Ribeiro rode alongside each other behind him. More than 10 other motorcycles followed.
"I looked back to make sure the guys were getting out, and nothing was happening in the rear. I looked forward and the truck was hitting Al," Morin said, pausing to fight back tears. "He hit Al. There was no time. We couldn't prepare. We couldn't maneuver. This kid just came and boom into Al, into me and then he swerved, and that's when he hit the three [bikes] on the other side."
The 2016 Dodge pickup truck that was towing a trailer in the opposite direction that the group was traveling had crossed at double yellow line and crashed into the group of Jarheads, according to prosecutors.
After the collision, Ribeiro ran over to Mazza, but it was immediately clear he was already gone.
"I watched him die," Morin said of his longtime friend.
Ribeiro then attempted to use a belt, and later a strap he found nearby, as a tourniquet on his leg while they waited 48 minutes for rescuers to arrive.
"I said, `I need to you tie it down as tight as you can and not let go or I'm going to die," Morin remembered. "I kind of was comfortable almost because I had lost so much blood. I was calling for my wife Joy and the people in the back wouldn't let her come to me."
Today, Morin said that he's thankful his wife was never able to get to him that night.
"I think at that point, I had lost that much blood, that if they let her see me I probably would have told her goodbye," Morin said. "I think I would have died on the road."
When rescuers arrived, Morin, who was the most gravely injured of the survivors, was taken by ambulance to a New Hampshire hospital and then by helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland.
There, he was treated for his broken femur, separated shoulder, hand, pelvic and foot injuries.
He's had more than 20 surgeries so far.
Morin uses crutches to walk around. Sometimes he relies on a wheelchair. Recently, his ankle has been in the most pain sometimes it causes him to fall down, he said.
While Morin spoke openly about the events of June 21, he refused to talk about Zhukovskyy, who is accused of being under the influence of narcotics at the time of the crash.
During their investigation, authorities learned Zhukovskyy has a laundry list of driving infractions. At the time, he was out on bail for an operating under the influence arrest out of Connecticut.
Through that discovery, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation uncovered a backlog of thousands of out of state violations they are now working to address. More than 1,600 Massachusetts drivers have had their licenses suspended as a result.
In addition to the criminal case, the Morins have sued Zhukovskyy and the company that employed him at the time.
Morin declined to comment on the active legal proceedings, as well.
As for the friends he lost that day, Morin can't talk about Mazza without choking up. The two Marines were especially close and used to ride up and down the Eastern Seaboard together.
On Thursday, Morin pulled up a photo of the two of them at a 2018 ride on Cape Cod.
Mazza, Morin said, was with him a few years ago when he somewhat impulsively purchased the Harley Davidson Softail Classic that he was riding the day of the crash.
"It's hard. It's hard," Morin said Thursday. "We lost so many good people."
Along with several other Jarheads riding that day, Morin was an Marine Corps Mortarman. He believes that having an infantry background has given him the "strength to carry on" after the crash.
"But a lot of it is my nursing skills," he said.
While Morin still has a long road ahead of him, he believes that he'll eventually make an almost-full recovery.
"I'll never be 100 percent," he said. "I'm hoping I'll get back to walking, and once I get walking in the warmer weather I can really start walking I'll get my arms back together."
Down the line, Morin expects he'll even be able to get back on a motorcycle.
"That's the Marine Corp in me," he said.
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.
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