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‘Such a senseless tragedy’: Town heartbroken after 5 students killed by wrong-way driver

A Vermont community is mourning the loss of five high school students who were killed when a pickup truck speeding in the wrong direction on an interstate highway slammed into their car, sending it up in flames.

The governor ordered flags to fly at half-staff in Vermont as classmates, teachers and staff at Harwood Union High planned a Monday evening vigil. The tribute will be held at the school in Moretown, where four of the victims were students.

The teens all died at the scene of the crash in Williston on Saturday night. They were Mary Harris, 16, of Moretown; Cyrus Zschau, 16, of Moretown; Liam Hale, 16, of Fayston; Janie Cozzi, 15, of Fayston; and Eli Brookens, 16, of Waterbury.

“The loss of five teens in such a senseless tragedy is unimaginable and heartbreaking,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said.

Dan Weintraub, who was Janie’s soccer coach and European history teacher at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire, said she was deeply loved by her teammates and coaches.

“She always came to every practice with a huge smile, and put in a 100 percent effort,” he said. “Everybody followed her lead.”

State police say Steven Bourgoin, 36, was behind the wheel of the pickup truck traveling the wrong way when he crashed into the students’ car, which burst into flames.

Bourgoin is facing a domestic assault charge. According to a police affidavit, in May, 36-year-old Steven Bourgoin hit his girlfriend in the head, and threatened to throw her down the stairs. Police say when she tried to leave with their 2-year-old child, Bourgoin got into the vehicle, drove them around and threatened to kill them.

The woman told police that a similar incident happened two years ago in Massachusetts, where the couple previously lived.

A public defender representing Bourgoin did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Police say a Williston police officer was the first to arrive on the scene. As he tried to extinguish the car fire, a man later identified as Bourgoin, jumped in the officer’s cruiser and took off. He crashed into seven more cars and was thrown from the vehicle, which also went up in flames.

He was taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition Monday morning. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.

State police said at least nine other people were injured in the series of crashes. UVM saw five people, including Bourgoin. Three were treated and released and one was listed in good condition Monday.

Bourgoin is a warehouse associate at Lake Champlain Chocolates. A spokeswoman said workers are as shocked and saddened as everyone else in the area is.

“Our thoughts and prayers are just with everyone, the victims and families and everyone,” Alyson Myers said. “It seems everyone in some way has been affected by such a heart wrenching loss.”

Associated Press writers Lisa Rathke in Montpelier and Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.

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