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Five Vermont Teens Dead After Hit-and-Run

By Dan Gagnon; Assistant News/Sports Editor
On October 20, 2016

Five Vermont Teens Dead After Hit-and-Run

Dan Gannon

Assistant News/Sports Editor

Five teenagers were killed in what police are describing as the worst car accident in the history of Vermont on October 10 on Interstate 89. The accident occurred when a 2012 Toyota Tundra was going the wrong way on the highway and struck the five teens in their 2004 Volkswagon Jetta. This caused the Jetta to explode and burst into flames on impact, killing all five teens instantly.

A Williston Police Officer responded to the accident, but the driver of the Toyota Tundra, identified as Steven Bourgoin, 36, of Williston, stole the police cruiser as the officer attempted to put out the fire.

Using the stolen police cruiser, Bourgoin continued down the highway, crashing into 10-12 other vehicles and injuring five more people as police chased him. The chase came to a fiery end when Bourgoin made a U-turn and returned to the original crash site. Bourgoin was going 100 mph and clipped another car. The cruiser burst into flames, and Bourgoin was forcefully ejected from the vehicle.

The five students have been identified as Eli Brookens, 16, of Waterbury, Jani Cozzi, 15, of Fayston, Liam Hale, 16, of Fayston, and Cyrus Zschau, 16, of Moretown. It has been confirmed that four out of the five students were juniors at Harwood Union High School. Sarah Moore, the spokeswoman for the Kimball Union Academy of Meriden, New Hampshire confirmed that Jani Cozzi was a student there.

Amy Rex, Principal of Union High School said in news release, “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." Sarah Moore added that the students and staff at Kimball Union University are, “heartbroken.”

In addition to the five students killed, five others were injured as well. Police have yet to release the names of those people. Bourgoin himself was injured and listed in critical condition. He was taken into custody at UVM Medical Center. A makeshift courtroom was made in the hospital so he could be arraigned on Friday, October 14. Steven Bourgoin plead not guilty to five counts of second-degree murder and is being held without bond. Prosecutor T.J. Donovan explained why they brought the second-degree murder charges in a conference after the hearing. He stated, “To go five miles in the wrong way, at night, at a high rate of speed certainly exhibits an extreme indifference to the value of human life and that's why we brought the second-degree murder charge.”

Police have yet to question Bourgoin as he has been in and out of surgery but is now listed in good condition. Police are investigating to see if he was suicidal at the time of the accident. Bourgoin was supposed to go see his child the night of the accident and on social media, he made threats to take his life if he were to lose custody of his child. A toxicology report detailing if drugs or alcohol played a factor has not been provided. As of right now, Steven Bourgoin remains in police custody and is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The state of Vermont ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in remembrance of the students, who had such bight futures taken away from them in a senseless act. 

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