Five dead teens, a stolen police car and the 'most horrific' crash in decades

By Katie Mettler, AP

Wreckage on the interstate highway in Vermont. Photo / AP
Wreckage on the interstate highway in Vermont. Photo / AP

The first 911 call came at 11:43 p.m. Saturday, a report from a concerned motorist about a Toyota truck barreling down Interstate 89 on the wrong side of the road.

More calls followed.

Vermont state and local police dispatched cruisers, hoping to intercept the erratic driver, to stop the truck before a crash did.

They drove alongside motorists who couldn't possibly know the danger speeding toward them and carloads of people they had no way of warning.

Among them was a Volkswagen Jetta carrying five teenagers barely old enough to drive.

Nine minutes later, at 11:53 p.m., police received another 911 call.

This time, it was about a crash.

The first police officer on scene in Williston found two crumpled vehicles in the road - a Toyota truck and a Volkswagen Jetta.

The Jetta was engulfed in flames.

In a desperate attempt to save the teenagers trapped inside, the officer grabbed a fire extinguisher and rushed toward the blaze, according to the Vermont State Police. He pulled one young girl from the car and tried to suppress the flames.

Then he watched this scene in disbelief: His police cruiser - the red and blue emergency lights still activated - was speeding away from the wreckage. Behind the wheel sat a man, later identified as Steven D. Bourgoin, 36, the apparent owner of the wrong-way truck.


By the night's end, Bourgoin had not only hijacked the officer's car, but dodged police custody while fleeing the scene, hitting at least seven other cars while driving the wrong way along Interstate 89, authorities said.

His spree ended only when he crashed the police cruiser for a final time, police said, ejecting himself from the car before it, too, burst into flames.

He was taken to a hospital alongside five other people, police said, who are reported to be in stable condition.

All five teenagers - friends since childhood on their way home from a concert - were killed.

Vermont State Police identified the victims as Mary Harris, 16, and Cyrus Zschau, 16, of Moretown; Liam Hale, 16, and Janie Cozzi, 15, of Fayston; and Eli Brookens, 16, of Waterbury.

The catastrophe stunned communities across the state. Four of the teenagers were juniors at Harwood Union High School in Duxbury, the Associated Press reported. Cozzi studied at Kimball Union Academy, a boarding school in New Hampshire, but had returned home to Vermont for the long weekend.

Firefighters who responded to the crash called it "the most horrific scene they have seen in their 10 to 15 years," Williston Senior Firefighter Prescott Nadeau told CNN.

Athletic events were canceled at both schools Monday and the state's gubernatorial debate was postponed so the candidates could attend a vigil for the students.

About 1,000 people attended the candlelight vigil on Monday night local time.

"I do think that they feel hugged by the state, truly"

Students at the high school set up a memorial and met with counselors yesterday as classes resumed for the first time since police say a driver traveling the wrong way on an interstate slammed into the students' car, killing five teens.

Throughout the day, students wrote loving notes to their friends, classmates and teammates killed in the crash and placed them on tables alongside flowers, photographs, athletic jerseys, and a signed soccer ball. Other Vermont schools sent flowers, food and posters with notes of support from students.

"I do think that they feel hugged by the state, truly," Superintendent Brigid Scheffert Nease said of the students. "And I'm certain that the faculty feels hugged by the state. I mean we are just hearing from everyone. Everyone is offering support and wanting to do something, hence the flowers and the food. ... I think it's comforting."

A room at the school also was set aside for students to have a quiet place to cope with the tragedy, console and support each other and meet with counselors. Nease said the room was filled throughout the day.

- Washington Post

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