Prosecutor: Police Investigating I-89 Wreck That Killed 5 Teens As Homicide

Oct 10, 2016

Prosecutors have an arrest warrant for Steven Bourgoin and plan to charge him with a felony and misdemeanor in connection with the series of crashes on Interstate 89 in the early hours of Sunday morning that injured 10 people and left five teens dead.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan made it clear there may be more charges to come.

“This is an ongoing investigation,” he said, “and I want to be very clear: This is an active homicide investigation into the deaths of the five teenagers on Interstate 89. Mr. Bourgoin is the primary suspect in that investigation.”

As of Monday afternoon, the charges against Bourgoin are one felony count of operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent and a misdemeanor count of careless and negligent driving.

Bourgoin is facing unrelated charges for domestic assault and unlawful restraint in Chittenden County, though he has not been convicted.

Donovan said he plans to provide an update on the homicide investigation later in the week.

Police wouldn’t say for certain whether Bourgoin was the driver of a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck that was seen traveling north in the southbound lanes of I-89 before crashing into a car carrying five teenagers. Vermont State Police Maj. Glenn Hall said that Bourgoin is the primary suspect as the driver of the truck.

“If anybody has any information regarding Mr. Bourgoin and his whereabouts and actions on October the 8th, please contact the Vermont State Police,” Donovan said. “This is the priority for the Vermont State Police, for my office and I believe the State of Vermont – this homicide investigation into the death of these five teenagers.”

The truck’s registered owner was Bourgoin’s ex-girlfriend’s father, who told police that “he was not aware of anyone else operating the vehicle other than Bourgoin,” court documents show. Bourgoin’s ex-girlfriend told police that “while the truck was in her father’s name, it was Bourgoin’s truck; that he made payments and the insurance was in Bourgoin’s name.”

Monday’s arrest warrant stems from what happened after the initial crash. Police say Bourgoin stole a Williston Police Department Ford Explorer from an officer who had left it in an effort to help the victims of the first collision. A police affidavit says Bourgoin drove the police SUV south, away from the crash site, before turning around and then crashing into the wrecked Toyota pickup at high speed.

A witness named Paul Swann described the scene to police, according to an affidavit filed in Chittenden County Superior Court.

As a Williston police officer was trying to extinguish a fire caused by the initial crash, Swann told police, “he started shouting, ‘Who’s in my car, someone just stole my car!!!’”

Minutes later, Swann told police, the officer began yelling again. He was telling people to get out of the road.

“Moments later the Explorer came back up the highway going north on 89 south,” Swann said. “I would have to estimate he was doing 90 – 100 mph. He collided with the Tacoma that had been in the original crash at full speed.”

Police say Bourgoin was the one who stole the police cruiser, and that he sustained “critical” injuries as a result of the crashes.

“It was terrifying,” Swann told police, “and I had frozen up, having been almost hit myself by the stolen cruiser.”

At a news conference Monday, Donovan said that “alcohol was not present as part of the crash,” but that police haven’t ruled out other substances as they await toxicology results.

Donovan didn’t directly answer a question about whether the incident was an attempted suicide by Bourgoin, but said he would “not classify what occurred as an accident.”

Donovan offered his condolences Monday “to the families of the deceased teenagers, to the entire community. This is an unspeakable tragedy. That said, we will continue to do our job and continue to update the community as this case progresses.”

Disclosure: The registered owner of the Toyota pickup truck involved in the initial crash is a contract employee for VPR.