Five teens were killed in Vermont over the weekend when the car they were traveling in was hit by a wrong-way driver, who attempted to flee in a stolen police cruiser, authorities said.
The fiery crash took place Saturday shortly before midnight when a pickup driver heading northbound in southbound lanes on Interstate 89 collided with a 2004 Volkswagen Jetta, according to a Vermont State Police news release.
Officials with the Williston Police Department arrived on the scene of the two-vehicle crash to find one car fully engulfed in flames in the median, the release state.
An officer retrieved an extinguisher and ran toward the fiery wreck, and was able to pull a female victim to the side of the road.
As the officer attempted to extinguish the flames, the 36-year-old man who was driving the other vehicle involved in the fatal crash allegedly entered the police cruiser and drove off, according to the release.
The man, identified as Steven D. Bourgoin, eventually made a U-turn after encountering another police officer on the road, then traveled back to the site of the original crash, authorities said. He was allegedly driving at a high rate of speed when he hit seven vehicles, injuring multiple people, according to State Police.
Bourgoin was taken into custody and transported to a local hospital. He was last reported to be in critical condition, according to television station WCAX in Burlington.
First responders described the scene as “horrific.”
“Some of the members have been firefighters for 15, 20 years and this is by far the worst incident that they have ever seen in their entire career. It was described as just truly horrific. There really just is almost no words to describe a scene like that,” said Williston Fire Department Senior Firefighter Prescott Nadeau.
The teen crash victims — all Vermont residents — were identified by State Police as Mary Harris, 16; Cyrus Zschau, 16; Liam Hale, 16; Janie Cozzi, 15; and Eli Brookens, 16.
Four of the teens attended Harwood Union High School, WCAX reported.
Students and community members gathered at the high school to remember the young victims.
“It’s a huge loss. It’s a huge loss,” Lisa Atwood, the high school’s co-principal, told WCAX.
A vigil is scheduled to take place at the school on Monday evening.
“It’s numbing. It’s numbing,” Jasper Goodman, a junior at the school, said in an interview with the station. “These are very close friends of mine, so it certainly has not sunk in yet.”