Vermont Community Mourns Loss of 5 Students Killed in Crash

Authorities say Steven Bourgoin was behind the wheel in two major crashes

A Vermont community is mourning the loss of five high school juniors who were killed when the car they were riding in was hit by a wrong-way driver.

A candlelight vigil was held Monday evening at Harwood Union High School in Moretown, where four of the five young victims attended. The vigil attracted a crowd so huge on the road leading to the school, that it snarled traffic. Several area residents who attended told necn the loss was so profound, they wanted to be with their neighbors for support.

The students have been identified as Eli Brookens of Waterbury; Janie Cozzi of Fayston; Liam Hale of Fayston; Mary Harris of Moretown; and Cyrus Zschau of Moretown.

Ordering flags around Vermont to fly at half-staff to honor their lives, Gov. Peter Shumlin called the deadly crash "heartbreaking."

"Vermont is a community, and today we share the sadness and loss of the families and friends of these teens," he continued.

His order to lower flags takes effect on Monday; flags will be returned to full staff at sunrise on Thursday.

Harris, Zschau, Hale and Brookens, all 16, attended Harwood Union High School in Duxbury. Cozzi, 15, was a student at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire.

"This is an unimaginable moment," Kimball Union said in a statement on its Facebook page. "Our hearts are with everyone affected by this tragedy."

At the Moretown United Methodist Church, the bell rang five times and its worshippers lit five candles at a noontime prayer service Monday.

Pastor Chico Garland said he hopes in the coming days, the community can focus on the joy with which the students lived their lives.

"These were all good, smart, happy kids with lots of friends," Garland said. "Even as we mourn, we should remember that kind of joy."

Meanwhile, State police say 36-year-old Steven Bourgoin was behind the wheel of a pickup truck traveling the wrong way on an interstate in Williston Saturday night when he crashed into the students' car, which caught fire.

State police say Bourgoin then stole a police cruiser and crashed into seven more cars. Bourgoin was thrown from the vehicle, which went up in flames. He was taken to a hospital, where he's listed in serious condition.

Officials say they were granted an arrest warrant for Bourgoin on two charges, aggravated driving of a stolen vehicle and gross negligent driving, on Monday; the court ordered him to be held on $1 million cash bail.

Chittenden County Attorney TJ Donovan said Bourgoin is the primary suspect in law enforcement's ongoing investigation into the teens' deaths, which have been ruled as a homicide.

"This case is a tragedy," he said in a press conference Monday afternoon.

Donovan also revealed that Bourgoin has an open domestic assault case pending in Chittenden County stemming from an incident in May and recently lost custody of his child. His domestic assault case is set to go on trial in November.

It was not immediately clear if Bourgoin had an attorney.

The names of the people in the seven other cars were also released Monday morning. They suffered non-life threatening injuries, according to police.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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