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Hubbardton fire decimates home

HUBBARDTON — Hubbardton Volunteer Fire Chief Don Brown said a mobile home with additions burned to the ground Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

Half of the house at 110 Stony Drive was involved when the Hubbardton Volunteer Fire Department got there 15 minutes after the call came in, Brown said.

“You could see it from the main road before you got to the house,” Brown said Wednesday.

Brown said the Hubbardton Volunteer Fire Department got the call from the homeowners at 9:46 p.m., and got to the fire at 10:08 p.m.

“The location was very hard to get to,” Brown said. “It’s a long, steep road and very muddy.”

As there was no access to water via fire hydrants, Brown said the department had to haul tankers of water onto the scene, where they were assisted by the Fair Haven and Castleton fire departments.

West Rutland covered the Hubbardton fire station, while Poultney stood in for Castleton as the fire was knocked down, Brown said.

Although the fire is not suspicious, Brown said, firefighters still don’t know exactly what caused it. He said the fire appears to have started in the kitchen.

Alpha Stone, who lives less than 200 feet from the property, said his mother was one of the people in the trailer and thought his family was having a bonfire when he saw the blaze.

After shutting off power to the structure, Stone said he called the fire chief before removing propane tanks around the house.

Alhough his mother survived the fire uninjured, Stone said the property was a total loss, with irreparable damage to two wells, and he’s currently trying to find a manual pump to use instead.

Stone said his mother lost everything she owned in the fire. “All she has is the clothes on her back,” Stone said.


Law Day tradition
Avengers hauled into court for Law Day mock trial

A tree was on the witness stand at Rutland civil court, and a talking raccoon was translating for him.

It was the annual Law Day mock trial, in which members of the Rutland County Bar Association use fictional characters to teach local school children about the law. In recent years, the mock trials have been based around recent popular movies. The Wednesday event, which consisted of morning and afternoon sessions for different groups of students, drew its characters from Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise.

The plaintiff was archvillain Thanos, portrayed by Thomas Bixby clad in a full-length, movie-accurate costume. He was suing Shuri, the scientist younger sister of the Black Panther, portrayed by Phyllisa Jones Prescott, for damaging his infinity gauntlet, a MacGuffin the movie version of Thanos assembled in an effort to wipe out half of all life in the universe.

“This is not quite Earth 616 and closer to Earth 617, which is not a real thing,” Judge David Barra told the audience, explaining the liberties the mock trial would take with the plot of “Avengers: Infinity War.”

As whimsical as the premise is, the cases are argued using (more or less) real-world legal procedures and a jury drawn from the students in attendance. The morning session was made up of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from Shrewsbury Mountain School, Clarendon Elementary School and Christ the King School.

The plaintiff and defendant each took the stand, with Thanos claiming Shuri damaged the gauntlet for which he paid 2.5 million galactic credits for by shooting it with a force field generator. Thanos admitted the infinity gauntlet had no warranty, and the damage took place during a battle he started. Shuri admitted she tried to damage the gauntlet but failed, but would have been justified had she succeeded because Thanos was evil.

Each side also called one witness, which resulted in Rocket Raccoon taking the stand for Thanos and Groot testifying for Shuri. When a child in the audience asked why more of the Avengers weren’t there, organizer and attorney for the defense Karl Anderson quipped that they couldn’t afford the rights to the whole movie.

Elijah LaChance, wearing a fur hat and raccoon mask, hammed it up as Rocket, an alien anthropomorphic raccoon known for his snark. Instead of “I do,” he responded to being asked if he would swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth with “Yeah, that.” The audience got to see rules about relevant testimony in action when Anderson tried to ask Rocket about his “lengthy criminal record” and Thanos’ lawyer, Shannon Lamb, objected.

Groot, played by Jim Levins, is a talking tree. All he ever says is “I am Groot,” but the phrase can mean almost anything. With Rocket being one of the few characters — and only one present — who can understand Groot, Anderson called on him to translate. This led to a multifaceted objection from Lamb questioning the raccoon on his ability to translate for the tree.

“We were business partners for a long time,” LaChance said when asked how he learned Groot’s language. “I got it right, things worked out. I got it wrong, he beat me with his trunk.”

LaChance, covered head to toe in camouflage and holding a tree branch, found several different inflections and intonations to use as he replied to every question with “I am Groot.”

As the jury deliberated, Barra asked the remaining students who they would find for. While the vast majority raised their hands for Shuri, a handful backed Thanos. One argued Thanos spent a lot of money on the Infinity Gauntlet and was entitled to get his use out of it.

“It’s not his fault that he wanted to wipe out half the universe because maybe he didn’t have good enough parents to tell him not to do that,” another argued. “He’s just following his dreams.”

Shuri’s supporters argued she was defending herself, and Thanos shouldn’t have taken the gauntlet to a battle if he didn’t want it broken — a doctrine the lawyers explained is called “assumption of risk.”

Deliberations resulted in a hung jury and the declaration of a mistrial.


rlayman / Robert Layman / Staff Photo  

Greeting the day

A pair of sheep emerge from their shelter in Benson on Wednesday morning.

Witness testimony:
Witness: Teens died before fire

BURLINGTON — Five Central Vermont teens killed in a fiery two-vehicle crash on Interstate 89 in Williston 2½ years ago died from blunt force trauma, the state’s deputy chief medical examiner told a Vermont Superior Court jury Wednesday.

Eli Brookens, 16, of Waterbury; Janie Chase Cozzi, 15, of Fayston; Liam Hale, 16, of Fayston; Mary Harris, 16, of Moretown; and Cyrus Zschau, 16, of Moretown are believed to have died almost instantly in the crash about 11:55 p.m. Oct. 8, 2016.

Dr. Elizabeth Bundock offered the testimony on Day 3 of the criminal trial of Steven D. Bourgoin, 38, of Williston.

Bourgoin has pleaded not guilty to five counts of second-degree murder for showing wanton disregard toward the teens by speeding and driving the wrong way on I-89. He also had drugs in his system, records show.

The doctor said she ruled the deaths homicides. There was no evidence that the victims took any significant breaths after their car caught fire. Four were pinned in the 2004 Volkswagen Jetta, while Harris was ejected — possibly through the sunroof.

Now retired State Police Detective Sgt. Matthew Denis, who was assigned to the medical examiner’s office until January, testified that dental and medical records are normally needed during autopsies to help identify burned victims.

Denis said he made a decision to have the Volkswagen Jetta loaded onto a truck and brought to the State Police barracks in Williston so he could supervise the removal of the four victims still in the wrecked car. He said Harris, who was ejected from the car, and found in the grass in the median was removed by a funeral home.

Denis identified the five teenagers by name. Denis said Zschau was driving and Cozzi was believed in the front seat. Hale was behind the driver, Harris was in the center and Brookens was in the right rear, Denis said.

Testimony during the morning confirmed that Bourgoin was behind the wheel of the 2012 Toyota Tacoma that crashed into the Volkswagen. State Police Detective Sgt. Aimee Nolan, a member of the crime scene search team, testified about her examination of the truck and removing the deployed airbags for DNA tests. She also took photographs of the truck, including seven that were introduced into evidence.

The veteran criminal investigator said she earlier had been called in on Oct. 9, 2016, to help with interviews from witnesses from the crash scene.

Joseph Abraham, a chemist with the Vermont Forensic Laboratory, testified that the DNA taken from the airbag matched Bourgoin.

Defense lawyers Robert Katims and Sara Puls continued to refrain from asking questions about the crash. Katims had said in his opening statement that there is no dispute that Bourgoin was driving when he crashed into the teens and when he later jumped into a Williston Police cruiser and drove off, only to make a U-turn and return to crash into his truck on I-89.

The defense maintains Bourgoin, a Rutland High School graduate, had suffered from depression for many years and was psychotic and delusional. He thought he was seeing lights and hearing music that was directing his movements, Katims said. Bourgoin thought he was on a government mission.

The court plans to conduct only a half day of testimony on Thursday, and the state is expected to present Williston Police Officer Eric Shepard and retired State Police Cpl. Mike Sorensen, a crash reconstruction investigator.

The defense could begin its case sometime Friday. A large part of its case is expected to focus on two experts — one hired by the prosecution and one by the defense — that both agree Bourgoin was insane.

The state hopes to counter any of that testimony about insanity by calling rebuttal witnesses after the defense ends its case.

Also testifying Wednesday morning were Washington County Senior Deputy Sheriff Jim Wells and his wife, Maureen Shannon-Wells, who is a state probation officer from Calais.

They testified as more than a half dozen other earlier witnesses about coming onto the crash site. Shannon-Wells said when the stolen Williston Police cruiser returned to the scene, “it came flying by me.”

She said she ran into the woods and thought she had died.

Wells said as a deputy sheriff he went to try to help Shepard, the first officer at the scene. Wells said Shepard was unable to get the doors of the Volkswagen open.

“It was too hot,” Wells said. Shepard yelled to the teens to unlock the doors, but nothing happened, Wells said. He said the flames engulfed the car. “It was getting unsafe.”

He said a decision was made to move Harris, who had been ejected and was nearby in the grass.

Wells said he later heard Shepard yelling repeatedly for everybody to get off I-89. Earlier testimony indicated that the stolen Williston cruiser had made a U-turn and was headed back to the original crash scene at 100 mph.

Wells said when he heard the crash, he believed the worst had happened.

“I thought a dozen people were dead,” Wells said, adding he found his wife hiding in the woods.

After Shepard arrested Bourgoin at gunpoint and had him in the grassy median, Wells said he was standing nearby assisting State Trooper Bradley Miller. He said Bourgoin attempted to get up and Miller asked for help restraining Bourgoin.

Wells said he was treated for smoke inhalation at Central Vermont Medical Center after clearing from the crash site.

The final witness Wednesday was State Police Sgt. Owen D. Ballinger, the crash reconstruction team leader. He outlined the official findings of the two crashes, including that it was a near head-on contact between Bourgoin’s truck and the Volkswagen with the students.

If convicted Bourgoin would face 20 years to life for each homicide. If found not guilty by reason of insanity the court would send him for a mental examination to determine if he needs to be sent to some kind of facility or can reside in the community with possible court-imposed restrictions.

Also, Bourgoin has denied two other counts of misconduct after the initial crash: misdemeanor charges of aggravated operation of the marked Williston police cruiser without consent and recklessly driving the cruiser by crashing it into the first accident scene.

A panel of 10 women and six men have been selected to hear the testimony. The final jury of 12 will be selected to decide his fate after all the evidence is heard and closing arguments are made. The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.

SVC closure provides opportunity
Castleton University to designate Bennington space as new arm of nursing program

CASTLETON — What began as a potential teach-out partnership quickly evolved into a second location for Castleton University’s nursing program.

With the impending closure of Southern Vermont College, Castleton is creating a satellite campus for its nursing program to partner with Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Vermont Mill Properties, formerly the home of SVC’s nursing program.

“When SVC announced they were closing, I reached out to them,” said Dr. Angela Smith, chairwoman, program director and assistant professor in Castleton’s nursing program. “SVMC said they wanted to meet with us and talk about a partnership.”

Smith said the hospital wanted a four-year nursing program in Bennington, especially now with the coming closure of SVC.

Two floors of the Vermont Mill Properties building, formerly the Leonard Holden Mill, were converted into classrooms, labs and lounge areas for the nursing program, which partnered with SVC to provide affordable tuition and employment after graduation.

“We’ll have 25 southern Vermont students, recruiting a small cohort, and realistically 30 students starting down there this fall,” said Maurice Ouimet, dean of enrollment. “There’s a need to bring nurses to that region.”

Ouimet said students can enroll in the four-year bachelor of science program or the registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing program, which helps working nurses with an associate’s degree achieve their bachelor’s degree. Kevin Dailey, vice president of administration and chief human resources officer at SVMC, said those who work at SVMC will receive assistance from the hospital in paying off their college loans.

“We’re anticipating a shortage of BSN-licensed nurses in the foreseeable future,” Dailey said. “They’re going to be in such great demand.”

Shiela Boni, interim chief nursing officer at SVMC, said the nursing workforce in the state is aging out of the profession, and combined with fewer programs and less financial incentive, hospitals around the region are gearing up for a steadily worsening nursing shortage.

Dailey said the hospital isn’t anticipating an overstaffing of nurses anytime soon, and would be prepared to offer 10 to 20 nurses positions at SVMC upon graduation.

“If we can grow our own nurses here, and educate them here and do their clinical work here, hopefully some of them will stay and have a career here,” Dailey said. “We’re going to put all of our energy into our decision to come here.”

Vermont Technical College will occupy space at Vermont Mill Properties as well, effectively creating a health education center for southern Vermont, Ouimet said. Admissions for the new program will continue throughout the summer for the program’s launch in the fall.

“We think the program will have 50 students by second year,” said Jonathan Spiro, chief academic officer at Castleton University. “The capacity might be as high as 80, but VTC has a two-year nursing program moving into the mill as well.”

The new program doesn’t just mean more space for more students — Smith said Castleton is looking for three full-time educators for the nursing program, and there are lots of part-time opportunities available.

Whether it’s the traditional four-year program or the accelerated program, students would work on all traditional nursing course requirements and conduct their clinical trials at SVMC, Smith said, where 80% of the nurses have bachelor’s degrees.

In the wake of closure announcements from Green Mountain College, College of St. Joseph and SVC, Ouimet said the university is anticipating a tidal wave of well over 200 transfer students in the fall, for a total 700-student incoming class.

“Admissions has been overwhelmed with applicants,” Smith said.

But there are no plans to expand yet, Spiro said, though Dailey confirmed there has been talk about other collaborations SVMC can facilitate in the future.

“We view this as a three-prong (approach),” Spiro said. “Part one is helping SVC students. Part two is alleviating the nursing shortage, and part three is (helping) the redevelopment efforts of Bennington. When a college closes down ... that’s a big hit. It’s a good way to boost the economy.”



“What I say to the companies is if you think the cost of your drug will scare people from buying your drugs, then lower your prices.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar commenting on Trump administration’s new regulation requiring drug manufacturers to disclose prescription drug prices more than $35 per month to consumers. — B8

Traffic jam

A 20-year-old Hudson, New York, man was stopped while driving in the early morning hours without head or tail lights and charged with trafficking fentanyl. A3

Dinoman’s show

The traveling dinosaurs are on their way to Brandon Town Hall for a Sunday afternoon family show May 19 from 4-5 p.m. A7

JLowe / Provided Photo/  

“Dinoman Dinosaurs” are friendly but they seem to like eating children.

RHD Hotspot


Tinmouth concert

Va-et-Vient (“Come and Go”) sings Quebecois Songs. 10, 7:30-9 p.m. Tinmouth Old Firehouse, 7 Mountain View Road, Tinmouth, 446-3953.