Pope County Schools retrieved their stolen bus Tuesday morning after it was reported sitting in the parking lot of Yarbor’s Convenience Store, more than 30 miles from where it was reported missing early Monday morning.
Pope County Sheriff Jerry Suits said his department has a person of interest but could not comment further while the case is under investigation.
Illinois State Police and ISP Crime Scene Investigators were assisting in the investigation Tuesday morning after a call led them to the location of the bus.
Employees at Yarbor’s, which is located at 8100 Tunnel Hill Rd in Goreville, said the bus was not in the lot at closing time Monday night and that it was there before the store opened at 7:00 Tuesday morning.
The bus was reported stolen by its driver who regularly kept it at home in-between shifts and it remained missing for nearly 24 hours until police received the call indicating the bus was located at Yarbor’s, which Pope County Schools’ Unit Secretary Paula Baker said led many to ask, “How do you hide a bus?”
“It’s kind of one of those unbelievable moments,” said Baker, adding that whoever took it was most likely not thinking clearly. “It’s a very odd thing to take a bus.”
The school had to scramble Monday morning to put into service a bus used primarily for extracurricular activities to get students to school. The missing bus serviced both the High School and Grade Schools of Pope County and its safe return was welcomed as Pope County Schools reported it is not financially in the position to unexpectedly replace a bus at this time.
Baker said the students, and even some teachers, thought it was a joke at first because of the idea of someone stealing a bus did not sound realistic. She said the school has never worried about such an act in the past and it is likely the district will look at future safeguards.