Employee accused of intentionally leaving gas valves on in HVA classroom out on bond

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office responded to a gas leak at Hardin Valley Academy March 30, according to officials with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 12:44 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2023 at 4:24 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Hardin Valley Academy dismissed students early after two gas valves in a science lab were left running overnight, causing disruptions to learning, Knox County Schools officials told WVLT News March 30.

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office investigated the tip and found that a contract custodian, later identified as Jay Riley Kostermans, 23, intentionally left the gas valves running.

Kostermans was released on a $250,000 bond Thursday and was required to wear an ankle monitor and undergo a mental evaluation at the Helen Ross McNabb Center. His preliminary hearing was set for April 27.

Fans were set up around the school and KCS maintenance and emergency personnel worked to resolve the issue to ensure the students were safe, according to officials.

“Following the mitigation of the gas fumes, the district received information suggesting that there may have been an additional safety risk associated with the situation and took precautionary measures to evacuate and dismiss school early,” officials said.

According to an arrest database, this is Kostermans only arrest in Knox County, but it still has some parents concerned.

Jay Riley Kostermans, 23
Jay Riley Kostermans, 23(KCSO)

“I mean speculating obviously.. an explosion could happen,” said Audra Caylor who is the parent of a freshman at HVA.

According to Knox County Schools, Kosterman was an employee of Duncan and Sons and was a contracted employee who worked the overnight shift with the school after the company’s contract was accepted from KCS in January.

Kostermans turned on the gas valves “out of anger over a dispute with his mother,” according to a report obtained by WVLT News.

Kostermans was arrested and immediately fired by his employer, according to KCS officials.

Students were dismissed around 1 p.m. and officials expected school to return to normal on Friday.

“The safety of our children and faculty in Knox County is paramount. Today, we had a positive outcome for everyone; however, it was a dangerous situation. I’m grateful there were no injuries and thankful we have a good working relationship with Knox County Schools. I commend the actions of our Patrolman assigned to HVA and our Detectives for their expeditious efforts in identifying the suspect and ensuring the safety of everyone at HVA. Let me be clear, now more than ever before, after this week’s events in Nashville, all of us at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and KCS take any threat seriously and will not tolerate endangering our children, the faculty, and the administration. The investigation is active and will be led by KCSO’s Major Crimes Unit.”

Knox County Sheriff's Office

Employees of Duncan and Co. undergo a preemployment background check administered by Knox County Schools prior to beginning work. This includes supplying a fingerprint sample and submitting to a criminal history records check to be conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).Knox County Schools is not involved in the interview or hiring process of Duncan and Co. employees.