Forty high school students and staff escaped injury Thursday morning when their bus went up in flames in Iroquois County. No one was hurt when the Peoria Charter bus on its way to Chicago for a field trip smelled of smoke, then went up in flames. The bus driver had pulled off I-57 at Gilman. Everyone evacuated before the bus was engulfed in flames.
Fire personnel arrived within three-minutes of a 9-1-1 call placed by a teacher on the bus. The bus driver had parked the bus on the Gilman exit ramp after students in the rear of the vehicle alerted him of the strong smell of smoke. A passing semi-truck driver used a fire extinguisher to help douse the flames. The bus was charred.
A replacement bus arrived to take the group to Chicago. The equipment malfunction is under investigation.
A $5-million dollar bond was set Thursday in Kankakee Circuit Court for the man accused of setting the apartment building fire that killed two young boys.
61-year-old Alex Sawyer is charged with 2-counts of first-degree murder and 4-counts of aggravated arson. The April 13th fire, prosecutors said, was intentionally set in a rear stairwell of the building on W. Station Street. Five others, two adults and three firemen, were also treated for injuries.
The Labrador-mix (known as Bear) is making progress as he recovers from his near-death experience in Ford County. Police are also reporting progress in the case to find who's responsible for shooting him and leaving him to die while suspended by his leash on a bridge near Sibley.
Officials at the small animal emergency and critical care service at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital have reported 'Bear" is more perky, eating and showing some personality.
Doctors also report Bear is getting a lot of love and the support from the public is tremendous.
A GoFundMe account has raised over $13,000 already in efforts to get Bear the medical treatment he needs. There's also interest in adopting him once he recovers.
Bear was found April 20 by a man walking his own dog along an abandoned road. The chocolate Labrador retriever mix had been shot, shattering the lower jaw,. He was also suffering from extreme dehydration, an injury to a rear limb, chronic skin ulcers and hypothermia.
The investigation into the incident is continuing. Ford County Sheriff Mark Doran said Wednesday "we have information to move us in the right direction." Charges could be filed once a solid case is formed.
The sheriff said the owners will not get the dog back.
A traffic stop west of Pontiac finds a Flanagan couple facing new heroin charges. 37-year-old James Blankenbeckler and his 32-year-old wife, Beth, were arrested Tuesday on Route 17. They were already free on bond for possession of heroin.
Both were charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance. Beth Blankenbeckler was also charged for bringing contraband into a penal institution. Police said the offense involved bringing medication into the jail.
According to police, officers found heroin in the couple's mini-van when it was stopped near Blackstone about 1:20 Tuesday morning.
According to a statement from the Livingston County Sheriff's Department, one bag of heroin, five used bags containing heroin residue and a straw were seized from the suspects. Other medications were also taken during the traffic stop.
The Blankenbecklers were charged in February with possession of heroin after the Livingston County Sheriff's Department drug unit seized more than 500 plastic bags containing heroin, 4.5 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia found at the couple's home. The couple was released after posting bonds.
The arrests sparked a dispute between State's Attorney Seth Uphoff and Sheriff Tony Childress over the charges and evidence in the case. The prosecutor criticized the sheriff's characterization of the investigation as a potential drug delivery case.
Childress stood by his comments that the large number of plastic bags represented a mixture of drug sales and personal use by the suspects.
The low-level felony charges filed in February accuse the Blankenbecklers of possessing, but not selling, drugs.
"It's as much a problem here as anywhere else...sexual assaults happen everywhere."
That was Wednesday's message from Iroquois County Assistant State's Attorney Alex O'Brien. He talked about sexual assault cases in Iroquois County, saying there were 45 people, including 27 children and 18 adults, that were assisted by the local ISAS office this last year.
Iroquois Sexual Assault Services hosted its 3rd annual 'Take Back the Night" event in Watseka. The First United Methodist Church was the setting for the education and awareness program. Two clients of ISAS bravely talked about their experiences, telling their own stories how ISAS, family and friends helped them cope.
O'Brien said sexual assault cases need to be talked about; it's about awareness. He said victims have to know the community supports them.