Athens Federal Bank officials and the Drug Task Force have joined an effort launched by the Cleveland Daily Banner earlier this week to find the person or persons responsible for throwing a fan motor from state route 130 onto Interstate 75, striking the bus and causing injury to the driver.
The pledge is now at $13,500.
Director Steve Lawson of the 10th Judicial Drug Task Force confirmed today his agency, which is under the direction of District Attorney General Steve Bebb’s office, added $500 to the pledge and also said his agents are assisting McMinn officials in protecting the travelers as well.
A number of area businesses and local and McMinn legislators have also joined the reward cause for information leading to the culprit(s). A mailbox was also thrown from an overpass recently as well, according to reports from McMinn County.
“We have had a number of calls and thought we had a good lead. The reward has sparked plenty of interest,” said Chief Deputy Matt Blair of the McMinn County Sheriff’s Office.
Blair noted the information did not pan out, but would not provide details of what the information regarded.
MCSO Sheriff Joe Guy said Tuesday after the reward information was published, WBIR in Knoxville and the Daily Post Athenian contacted his office for additional information.
Guy also said the case is a “top priority” and even his administrative personnel area actively involved in patrolling the county’s overpasses in hopes to keep interstate travelers safer.
Guy and Blair reflected on an incident which occurred several years ago at a McMinn interstate overpass where a cemetery grave marker was thrown from a bridge, severely “maiming” a woman who was riding in a car.
Danny Murray, leader of the nationally known Voices of Lee said just a one-second difference in timing could have been fatal to the bus driver Shelton Lewis, and/or caused even greater tragedy if he had lost control of the bus carrying the singers.
Shelton suffered cuts when the motor crashed through the bus, bringing the entire left side of the windshield with it and landing at a passenger’s feet. Glass was scattered up to 25 feet inside the bus but no other injuries were reported, according to Murray.
“The fund has ‘rapidly escalated’ in growth and has crossed county lines in hopes of finding who was responsible,” said Stephen Crass, editor and publisher of the Banner.
“The Voices of Lee are the greatest ambassadors any city could hope for and is nothing short of a miracle that a tragedy was averted,” said Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland earlier this week when the reward was established.
Those pledging to the reward fund so far are; the Banner, Athens Federal Community Bank, Mayor Tom and Sandra Rowland, Tarver Distributing, the Bank of Cleveland, Check into Cash, Lee University, Pioneer Credit Co. and Bradley County’s state Reps. Kevin Brooks and Eric Watson, Sen.-elect Mike Bell and McMinn County state Rep.-elect John Fogerty.
Persons with information are asked to contact the McMinn County Sheriff’s Office at 745-5620.