Hilliard police: Driver indicted for fatal March 2019 semi crash likely fled country

KEVIN CORVO
kcorvo@thisweeknews.com
A semitrailer exiting Interstate 270 northbound at Cemetery Road in Hilliard failed to stop March 26, 2019, and caused a crash involving multiple vehicles and killing one person. The driver, Bakhadir Kuzikov, was indicted in July for aggravated vehicular homicide, a third-degree felony, but as of June 5, he has not been found.

More than a year has passed since the driver of a semitrailer failed to stop for a red light after exiting northbound Interstate 270 in Hilliard, striking a stopped vehicle and killing a passenger, 83-year-old Charlotte Finck.

The driver on March 26, 2019, was Bakhadir Kuzikov, 57, whom a Franklin County grand jury in July indicted for aggravated vehicular homicide, a third-degree felony.

An arrest warrant was issued, but as of Friday, June 5, Kuzikov has not been found, according to the Hilliard Division of Police.

Authorities believe Kuzikov is in the Republic of Belarus, and it does not appear likely his extradition is imminent, said Deputy Chief Eric Grile.

In addition, the Franklin County arrest warrant is valid only in Ohio, he said.

The search for Kuzikov began shortly after the accident.

Investigators had learned the Dayton address that Kuzikov provided was not valid, Grile said.

They also discovered that within a week after the accident, Kuzikov had traveled to Belarus but was believed to have returned to the U.S. via Detroit, he said.

After the indictment, Hilliard police enlisted the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service, Southern District of Ohio, to help locate Kuzikov, Grile said.

Authorities, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the marshals service, did not find Kuzikov in Detroit, and they believe he has returned to Belarus, he said.

“International extradition is above our level,” he said. “From what we have been told, Belarus was not cooperating and that (international extradition) is difficult in this environment.”

Meanwhile, Finck’s family, including Hilliard resident Sarah Popovich, who was injured in the crash, still is recovering, said Daniel Mordarski, a local attorney representing Finck’s estate. Another local attorney, Ashley Starling of Willis Spangler Starling, said she represents Popovich family members.

“We are disappointed the driver fled the country,” Mordarski said. “We know there is a chance he will never face criminal prosecution. Despite this frustration, this close family continues to look forward and continues to try and physically and emotionally heal from the devastation.”

Popovich, who directed Hilliard Bradley High School’s orchestra from 2009 to 2017 before joining the staff of Hilliard Station Sixth Grade School, is Finck’s granddaughter. She was driving the 2006 Ford 500 struck by the semitrailer at 3:24 p.m. March 26, 2019.

A dash camera from a nearby Hilliard police cruiser driven by officer Vanessa Spears recorded the crash.

Spears has declined to recount her experience that day, but Mordarski thanked Hilliard police officers, and particularly Spears, for their efforts.

“The family wants to recognize and thank the heroes from the Hilliard (Division of Police),” he said. “From the officer who was in traffic at that location and immediately responded, to the relentless crash investigation, criminal investigation and efforts to locate the fugitive driver, the HPD worked hard to gather evidence and fight for the innocent victims.”

According to Hilliard police, Kuzikov had been traveling north on I-270 when he exited at Fishinger Boulevard and failed to stop for the red light on the traffic signal at the top of the ramp.

The impact pushed Popovich’s vehicle into the intersection, where it collided with two other vehicles, according to Hilliard police. The drivers of those vehicles were transported to a local hospital and released on the same day, police said.

Kuzikov also was treated at a local hospital and released the same day, police said.

Popovich was hospitalized for several weeks after the crash, according to a “Strength for Sarah” website in April 2019 that reported on her recovery.

“But this was not an ‘accident,’” Mordarski said. “This crash could have been prevented.”

Mordarski has filed a civil lawsuit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas against Kuzikov, Simbad LLC, which is the Tipp City-based trucking company that employed Kuzikov at the time of the crash, and “John Does 1-10.”

“Our lawsuit seeks to expose how (Kuzikov) was able to drive a tractor-trailer in this state and will seek justice from every person and company that allowed it to happen,” Mordarski said.

The case is assigned to Judge Richard Frye, and a trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 29, according to court records.

Attorney Jessica Reese of Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote represents Simbad LLC, according to court records.

ThisWeek left a message June 4 seeking comment from Reese.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo

Meanwhile, Finck’s family, including Hilliard resident Sarah Popovich, who was injured in the crash, still is recovering, said Daniel Mordarski, a local attorney representing Finck’s estate. Another local attorney, Ashley Starling ofWillis Spangler Starling, said she represents Popovich family members.