by Dan Bustard
The 19-year-old man who was driving the car that went off Interstate 91 early Monday, killing four teen-agers, did not look like he had been drinking or was having difficulties, according to an official at the Derby Line border crossing.
Autopsy reports released Tuesday reveal Mark Richards, 18, Brooke Kipp and Nicholas Gage, both 17, and Robin Lafont, 19, of Irasburg, died from drowning. They were in a 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix that Gregory Twofoot of Orleans had been driving. They had just returned from Canada.
Twofoot "did not appear to be someone who had been drinking," said port director Ed Cyr, who spoke with the people on duty at the border that night.
"I trust my inspectors. They are extremely well trained. But the driver appeared to be OK," Cyr said.
The Orleans County teen-agers were killed when Twofoot lost control of the Pontiac, which rolled down a bank and landed upside down in a four-foot-deep stream. Twofoot and Melissa Ferland, 18, of Barton, were treated and released from North Country Hospital in Newport on Monday.
A blood sample from Twofoot is being processed by the state. No charges have been filed and police are looking into reports that the steering wheel was jerked by a passenger before the accident, which occurred just south of exit 27 on I-91 around 3 a.m.
A concerned citizen and mother of two from East Haven, Monica St. Marie, says border officials need to be doing more with her federal tax dollars to prevent tragedies like this from happening.
"We're wasting our money, if they're not doing their jobs," she said.
"We do not enforce state laws," Cyr said. None of the six people in the car were wearing seat belts, according to police.
Most border crossings are routine in nature, and once all six people in the car said they were American citizens and no problems were seen, they continued on, Cyr said. The group was returning from a birthday celebration trip to Sherbrooke, Quebec.
There are policies in place to allow federal officials to contact state police should a driver cross the border who appears to have been drinking. Cyr said this was not the case here, and Vermont's seat belt law does not matter either.
Moments of silence are being taken at local town meetings to honor those who died in the accident.
At the Waterford town meeting Tuesday, Rep. Jennifer Nelson, D-Ryegate, voiced her strong support for legislation putting 20 more state troopers on the road, dedicated to drunken driving enforcement, though she admitted, "I don't think any amount of money can bring back these kids."
There are nights from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. where there are no state troopers in certain places, Nelson said. The bill is seeing good debate on both sides, by those like Gov. Howard Dean who want to address drunken driving, along with legislators who object to higher registration fees to pay for it, and if 20 new troopers are needed once the ranks are completely filled again as planned.
Staff reporters Ellen Cronin and Dana Gray contributed to this report.