DUXBURY, Vt. (AP) — A man accused of driving the wrong way on a Vermont interstate, crashing into a car and killing five high school students, is facing trial on an unrelated domestic assault charge, prosecutors said Monday.
A police affidavit says Steven Bourgoin, 36, hit his girlfriend in the head and threatened to throw her down the stairs in May. 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 girlfriend received custody of the child last month.
Bourgoin remained unconscious and in critical condition at a hospital Monday. Police say that after crashing into the teens’ car, he took a police cruiser and crashed into seven more cars. They say Bourgoin was injured when he was thrown from the vehicle, which went up in flames.
Prosecutors say Bourgoin is their prime suspect in the teens’ deaths, but they haven’t charged him. They did apply for an arrest warrant on charges related to his alleged use of the police cruiser.
It wasn’t immediately known if Bourgoin has an attorney. A public defender representing Bourgoin in the domestic violence case didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan raised questions about the motive for the crashes. When asked if the driver was trying to kill himself, he said he “would not classify what occurred on Interstate 89 as an accident.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Peter Shumliln 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 Duxbury, 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,” Shumlin said.
Dan Weintraub, who was Janie’s soccer coach and European history teacher at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire, said her teammates and coaches deeply loved her.
“She always came to every practice with a huge smile, and put in a 100 percent effort,” he said. “Everybody followed her lead.”
Bourgoin is a warehouse associate at Lake Champlain Chocolates. A spokeswoman said workers were as shocked and saddened as everyone else in the area.
Around midday Monday, the boys and girls soccer teams at Harwood started kicking balls around the field. Two of the students killed were on this year’s boys varsity soccer team, and all had grown up playing soccer.
Assistant Soccer Coach Joe Yalicki said a varsity game that had been scheduled for Monday was canceled, but the team wanted to get together.
“They agreed to get together today just to do something, kick the ball around, laughing and crying, a little of both,” said Yalicki, who graduated from Harwood in 2009. He has known all five students since they were in eighth grade.
“It’s been really hard the last 24 hours. It’s just, ‘How could this all happen?'” Mason Lemery, 16, a Harwood soccer team member, said after a somber Monday soccer practice.
He said the five were all well liked.
“We’re just trying to remember all the good memories of them, doing what they would have wanted us to do, come out here and play soccer,” he said.
In Waitsfield, one of the communities that makes up the Harwood school district, free soft-serve ice cream was being given out Monday at the Canteen Creamery where Cyrus worked.
“Cyrus was a big presence here, but his friends were as well,” said store owner Charlie Menard, who had the name “Cyrus” written on the white hat he was wearing. Cyrus had been scheduled to work a double shift Sunday, the day after he was killed.
“He sent me a message, actually, confirming, you know, that night on his way home,” Menard said. “He didn’t make it.”
Associated Press writer Kathy McCormack contributed to this report from Concord, New Hampshire. Lisa Rathke reported from Montpelier and Burlington, Vermont.
This story has been corrected to show Harwood Union High School is in Duxbury, not Moretown.
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