Five Vermont teenagers were killed on Oct. 8 after a wrong-way driver slammed into their vehicle on Interstate 89 in Williston, according to local media outlets.
State police said dispatchers received several reports of a Toyota pickup driving north in the southbound lane of the interstate at around 11:45 p.m. on Saturday. As police sought the reckless driver, dispatch received a report of a car collision a few minutes before midnight.
A Williston police officer arrived at the scene of the accident to see the elusive driver of the pick-up truck as well as a burning Volkswagen Jetta in the highway median.
Inside the engulfed Jetta were longtime friends and high school students 16-year-old Eli Brookens, 15-year-old Janie Cozzi, 16-year-old Liam Hale, 16-year-old Mary Harris, and 16-year-old Cyrus Zschau.
Four of the five victims attended Harwood Union High School. They were returning from a concert in Burlington, reported WCAX-TV.
“This is an unprecedented tragedy; we have suffered a tremendous loss. These students were vibrant members of our school community, actively involved and all with a promise for a bright future,” Harwood Union principal Amy Rex said in a statement, reported VT Digger.
According to police, as the responding officer attempted to extinguish the flames, the driver of the truck—later identified as 36-year-old Steven D. Bourgoin—stole the officer’s cruiser and sped away southbound.
The officer radioed in the stolen vehicle, and a Richmond officer attempted to intercept Bourgoin, who reversed the car and began heading north in the southbound lane towards the crash site, striking eight vehicles in his path, injuring 10. Bourgoin was later taken into custody and transported to UVM Medical Center, where he is listed in critical condition.
Following the car wreck, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin issued a statement of condolences.
“I have reached out to the families of the young Vermonters who we lost to offer love and support from me and all Vermonters during this unspeakably sad time,” said Shumlin.
“The loss of five teens in such a senseless tragedy is unimaginable and heartbreaking. Vermont is a community, and today we join the Harwood Union family, and share the sadness and loss of the families and friends of these teens. My deepest sympathies are with their loved ones.”
Vermont State Police say they have not definitively linked Bourgoin to the deadly wrong-way crash, the Burlington Free Press reported.
The victims in the additional crashes were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.