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Suspect in 5 Vermont teens' wrong-way crash deaths already facing domestic assault charges

WILLISTON, Vt. - The suspect in the death of five Vermont high school juniors in a wrong-way crash on the interstate was already facing domestic assault charges when the accident occurred, according to court records.

CBS Burlington affiliate WCAX-TV reports investigators visited the home of Steven Bourgoin, 36, in Williston for at least the second time on Sunday after the deadly series of crashes on Saturday on Interstate 89 nearby. 

Bourgoin was arrested in May for domestic assault and unlawful restraint after his girlfriend alleged he threatened to throw her down the stairs and kill both her and their two-year-old child, WCAX reports. He has denied the charges, but was ordered to stay away from his girlfriend and child. Bourgoin’s trial for that incident was supposed to start next month.

WCAX reports that, according to his LinkedIn profile, Bourgoin worked as a warehouse associate for Lake Champlain Chocolates, attended high school in both Massachusetts and Rutland, and graduated from the Community College of Vermont.

Bourgoin is accused of causing several crashes on Saturday, one of which killed the teens. It is not clear what charges he will face in that incident.

State police said they believe Bourgoin was behind the wheel of a pickup truck traveling the wrong way on an interstate in Williston Saturday night when he crashed into a car, which then caught fire. 

The five teenagers in the car were all pronounced dead at the scene. They were identified as 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. 

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, state police said. 

When a Richmond police officer tried to stop him, Bourgoin turned the cruiser around and began heading north in a southbound lane, back toward the crash scene, hitting seven other vehicles along the way, authorities said. 

Bourgoin was then thrown from the cruiser, which went up in flames, state police said. He was taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition early 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 and were taken to UVM Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. 

A car is cleared from the scene of several crashes police said were caused by a wrong-way driver on Interstate 89 in Williston, Vermont, on Oct. 8, 2016. WCAX

Officials across the state of Vermont have expressed sorry at the teens allegedly killed by Bourgoin. 

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

Four of the students who were killed attended Harwood Union High School, said Amy Rex, the school’s co-principal. A fifth student attended a different school.

“This is an unprecedented tragedy; we have suffered a tremendous loss,” Rex said. “These students were vibrant members of our school community, actively involved and all with a promise for a bright future.”

A vigil for the students will be held Monday evening at Harwood Union High School. Gov. Shumlin said in a statement that he planned to attend.

“Vermont is a community, and today we join the Harwood Union family, and share the sadness and loss of the families and friends of these teens,” said Shumlin. “My deepest sympathies are with their loved ones.” 

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