Stolen Gatlinburg church van recovered

Sep. 05, 2013 @ 11:06 PM

One of Roaring Fork Baptist Church's vans once was lost, but now is found.

The church van was stolen early Tuesday morning, but was found in front of a shopping center in Cocke County Wednesday, Pastor Kim McCroskey said.

"We got it, it's back and we'll use it (Wednesday night)," he said. "It'll be back in service and filled with children."

McCroskey went to retrieve the van with Gatlinburg police officers. The officers searched the van for evidence of who might have taken it, before turning it back over to the church.

The pastor said there was no damage to the vehicle, so they'll be able to put it back into service.

The church has five buses. The one stolen Tuesday was used to transport children in the city to the church’s services on Wednesday and Sunday.

“That one (is) the one bus that served here in Gatlinburg,” Pastor Kim McCroskey said. “The other drivers take their buses home.”

The others bring children from surrounding communities, he said, and it’s easier for the drivers to keep them at their homes.

The  van was apparently stolen at about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. A neighbor saw what he said was an older car with a loud muffler pull into the lot and stop behind the van, McCroskey said. The thief apparently entered through the back door, which was unlocked, and crawled to the front.

“In five minutes they had it started and were gone with it,” he said.

The neighbor wasn’t sure at first whether the strange car belonged to someone from the church. He contacted church members, who realized none of those authorized to use the van had taken it.

It was the first time the church has had any problem with that kind of theft, McCroskey said.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com