Five teenagers — lifelong friends, killed in a fiery, head-on crash in Vermont on Saturday night — were remembered during a candlelight vigil held Monday evening behind the high school four of them attended.
According to WCAX-TV, a crowd of at least 1,000 people gathered on the soccer field behind Harwood Union High School in Moretown, Vermont. They hugged, sobbed and shared their favorite memories of Janie Cozzi, 15, and 16-year-olds Eli Brookens, Liam Hale, Mary Harris and Cyrus Zschau.
The names of all five teens were read aloud during the vigil, which was organized by Patrick McHugh, a community member and father, the Burlington Free Press reports.
“In this unspeakable moment in your lives — we are here,” McHugh said to the teens’ grieving parents. “We love you. We loved your beautiful children, and we are here. It’s with a collective broken heart that we are here tonight.”
On Monday, Vermont’s governor, Peter Shumlin, ordered all flags across the state lowered to half-staff through Thursday.
“The loss of five young Vermonters in such a senseless tragedy is heartbreaking,” Shumlin said at the vigil. “Vermont is a community, and today we share the sadness and loss of the families and friends of these teens.”
The five teens died when a man allegedly traveling the wrong way down the interstate collided with their vehicle Saturday night.
Authorities allege the wrong-way driver then stole a police cruiser that responded to the scene — crashing into seven more vehicles before being ejected from the vehicle, the Vermont State Police said in a statement.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Steven Bourgoin, 36, who remains in critical condition at an area hospital following Saturday’s wreck, Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said at a Monday press conference.
Bourgoin was headed north on Interstate 89 in his Toyota Tundra but was driving in the southbound lane when he smashed head-on into a Volkswagen Jetta carrying the teens, according to the statement.
The Jetta burst into flames, and as responding officers pulled a female victim from the car and attempted to extinguish the fire, Bourgoin allegedly got into a cruiser and drove off, according to the statement.
Bourgoin crashed into seven more cars before being ejected from the police car, according to the statement. The police vehicle also caught fire, the statement said.
Bourgoin was taken into custody and transported to the University of Vermont Medical Center.
During a press conference on Monday, Donovan said charges of aggravated operation of a motor vehicle and gross negligent operation had been lodged against Bourgoin, with additional counts expected to be filed before week’s end.
Bourgoin is being held on $1 million cash bail, Donovan said. Bourgoin does not have an attorney, court records show, and he has not yet appeared in court because he remains hospitalized.
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“This is an active homicide investigation,” Donovan told reporters. “Bourgoin is the primary suspect in that investigation. This case is a tragedy; I’m not sure there are any words, other than we collectively offer our condolences to the families of the deceased. What happened on Interstate 89 was not an accident.”
Donovan said there is no evidence Bourgoin was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.
Multiple victims were treated at the University of Vermont Medical Center for non-life threatening injuries. The crash closed the highway for several hours as police gathered evidence from the accident scene.
According to court records, Bourgoin was due in court next month for the start of his criminal trial in an unrelated domestic violence incident. In May, he was arrested for domestic assault and unlawful restraint after he allegedly threatened to throw his girlfriend down the stairs and kill both her and their 2-year-old child.
Bourgoin’s girlfriend told police he had hit her and blocked her and their child from leaving their house.
Bourgoin has denied the allegations in court and was ordered to stay away from his girlfriend and their child. Information about his attorney on the domestic violence charges was not immediately available.