A wrong-way driver allegedly slammed his truck into another vehicle on a Vermont highway, killing five high school students, before the suspect took off in a stolen police cruiser and crashed into seven more cars, police said.
The initial crash happened after 11:45 p.m. Saturday, on Interstate 89 south in Williston, state police said in a news release.
Motorists reported a driver traveling north in the southbound lane.
The crash left a Volkswagen Jetta engulfed in flames in the highway median. As a Williston police officer pulled a female victim from the wrecked vehicle and tried to extinguish the fire, police said, the suspect — identified as Steven Bourgoin, 36 — entered the officer’s cruiser and fled southbound.
Officers with neighboring departments tailed the cruiser, causing Bourgoin to turn around, again heading north in the southbound lane toward the original crash site — when the stolen cruiser slammed into seven more vehicles, police said.
Five people, all high school juniors, died in the primary crash, according to Harwood Union Middle and High School co-Principal Amy Rex. Their names have not yet been released, but she confirmed four of the five victims attended the Duxbury high school, while the fifth was enrolled at a different school.
Rex called the deaths “an uprecendented tragedy,” noting they all had bright futures ahead of them.
Others were also injured in the second crash, police said.
Bourgoin, who sustained non-life-threatening injuries, was taken into custody and transported to a nearby hospital.
The crashes remain under investigation.