Man Guilty of Murder in Wrong-Way Interstate Crash That Killed 5 Teens

May 23, 2019 Updated: May 23, 2019

A Vermont man was convicted on five counts of murder in a 2016 wrong-way crash that killed five teens, it was reported on May 22.

Steven Bourgoin, 38, was driving the wrong way on Interstate 89 in Williston, crashing his truck into a car of teens that were coming back from a concert, WCAX reported.

They said that he jumped into a police car, drove for a while, and then crashed into several other vehicles.

Mary Harris, Liam Hale, Cyrus Zschau, Eli Brookens, and Janie Cozzi died at the scene of the accident, officials said.

In this still image from video provided by WCAX-TV, workers remove vehicles from Interstate 89 in Williston, Vt., on Oct. 9, 2016, after a wrong-way driver caused a crash just before midnight that killed multiple people, before stealing a police cruiser, striking several vehicles and injuring several people. (WCAX-TV via AP)

“I’m so thankful for the families and their bravery and their courage to come here every day and listen to this evidence and to have gone through two-and-a-half years waiting for this day. I really could not ask for a better outcome,” said Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George of the guilty verdict.

“We’re disappointed in the verdict. We respect the verdict but we’re disappointed. Obviously, we think we presented the overwhelming medical evidence with regard to the sanity issue and we’re disappointed that the jury found otherwise,” said Bob Katims, the defendant’s lawyer.

The jury rejected the case that Bourgoin was insane, as his lawyers claimed, reported Fox News. He pleaded not guilty on five charges of second-degree murder.

He faces 20-years-to-life for each count.

Prosecutors said that Bourgoin was troubled at the time of the incident, struggling with custody, relationship, and financial issues.

His condition didn’t meet the legal definition of insanity, they argued.

Families Respond

“I’m relieved to put this part of this tragedy behind us so I can move beyond focusing on my son Eli’s death and focus on his life and the beautiful person that he was,” said Colleen Ovelman, Eli’s mother, WCAX reported.

“We would like it to be about the kids now and no more about Steven Bourgoin. They’re beautiful kids,” said Sarah Zschau, Cyrus’ mother, in the report.

“I’m relieved that this phase of the process is complete,” added Sue Hale, Liam’s mother. “At this time, we would ask you to refocus the energy toward the young people whose lives were needlessly and tragically taken from us and them.”

Fatal Car Crash Statistics

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, analyzing data from the Department of Transportation, there were 37,133 deaths from car accidents in 2017, the last year full data is available for. The deaths occurred across 34,247 fatal motor vehicle accidents.

The number means 11.4 deaths per 100,000 people and 1.16 deaths per 100 million miles traveled, although those numbers can vary widely across states.

The highest deaths per 100,000 population were in Mississippi, which saw 23.1 such deaths, and the most deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled were in South Carolina, which saw 1.80 such deaths.

The majority of fatal accidents are single-vehicle crashes, the institute noted.