Vermont Gov. Calls Crash that Killed 5 Teens ‘Senseless Tragedy,’ Orders Flags to Half-Staff

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In this still image from video, a worker attaches a wrecker cable to a vehicle on Interstate 89 early Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, in Williston,Vt.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has ordered state flags to fly at half-staff in honor of five teenagers killed when their car was struck by a wrong-way driver. Shumlin called the crash a "senseless tragedy."

The accident happened late Saturday in Williston, the Vermont State Police said, after people called 911 to report a wrong-way driver headed north in the southbound lane of Interstate 89.

Police responded and found that two car had collided and were "engulfed in flames in the median," the state police said.

While an officer tried to extinguish the blaze, a man, later identified as Steven Bourgoin, stole the officer’s car and began to speed southbound, the police said. Another police officer tried to block Bourgoin, and the suspect then turned around and again drove north in the southbound lane, speeding towards the original crash scene, police said.

Bourgoin then smashed into seven cars, police said.

The initial crash killed a car full of teenagers; four victims were 16 and one was 15, police said.

"The loss of five young Vermonters in such a senseless tragedy is heartbreaking," Shumlin said in a statement. "Vermont is a community, and today we share the sadness and loss of the families and friends of these teens. My deepest sympathies are with their loved ones."

Multiple people suffered non-life-threatening injuries from the second crash, police said.

Bourgoin, 36, of Williston, was taken into custody and hospitalized at the University of Vermont Medical Center. He is in critical condition, the police said today. The Associated Press said today that it wasn’t immediately clear if Bourgoin had an attorney.

Vermont flags will fly at half-staff from today until Thursday morning.