It was a brutal and wrenching week at the Edward J. Costello Courthouse in Burlington where Williston resident Steven Bourgoin is standing trial, facing five counts of second-degree murder for a wrong-way crash that killed five local teenagers.
It was brutal to hear – most specifically for the families and friends of the victims who sat through days of multiple witnesses detailing the specifics of the October 8, 2016, incident that killed Mary Harris, 16, Moretown; Eli Brookens, 16, Waterbury; Janie Cozzi, 15, Fayston; Liam Hale, 16, Fayston; and Cyrus Zschau, 16, Moretown.
Yet within all that horror, there were individual stories of valor, of heroics, of help rendered that do offer hope. Off-duty nurses, a physician’s assistant, a physician, a woodworker, a construction worker, active and retired firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency personnel and countless others did not run away from the horrible scene with its flames and chaos. They ran toward it.
So many people tried to help. After the first crash when the truck Bourgoin was driving hit the Jetta with the local teens and then after the second crash when Bourgoin crashed the stolen police cruiser into the truck that he had been driving earlier, people tried to help. The cruiser hit multiple cars and also burst into flames – and people tried to help others. Their own cars were hit and they were injured and they had their family members in their own cars.
In the midst of a scene that was described as hell and like a war zone with flames and sirens and rounds of ammunition going off in the stolen police cruiser after it burst into flames, people ran into the woods seeking shelter but then came out of the woods to help others.
This trial is absolutely about Bourgoin and his state of mind and his sanity or lack thereof. And, yet, it’s not just about Bourgoin. In fact, he’s just the one most horrible part of it. It’s also a trial and a story about the people who tried to help. Nothing can change the devastation that this tragedy brought to the families, their friends and their communities. That mark is indelible. But the fact that so many people, given the choice of trying to help, given the choice of caring, did what they did is a grace note. It’s the only grace note to this tragedy and senseless loss of five young lives.