Family pleads for driver in Knox County fatal hit-and-run on Christmas Eve to come forward

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KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) – A local family is waiting for answers days after losing a loved one in a deadly hit-and-run crash on Christmas Eve. Tennessee Highway Patrol investigators were still searching for the driver.

In a Monday update from THP, a spokesperson wrote, “Our Criminal Investigation Division is also involved in the investigation, and exhausting all means to attempt to identify the vehicle and the driver.”

The incident happened on State Route 131 near Maynardville Pike in Knox County, just before 7:20 p.m. We now know the pedestrian hit was Howard Mynatt, known by most as Gene.

“I don’t know anybody that would say they’ve been around Gene Mynatt that didn’t enjoy the moments they spent with him and felt like it was a better day walking away from him,” Gene’s son, Shane Mynatt said.

Mike Bates described Gene as a special man and devoted Christian. The two officiating TSSAA sporting events together. Bates noted he and many others in the athletic community considered Gene a mentor.

But their relationship began years before TSSAA.

They met in in the late 70s, when Gene was serving as a youth leader. In fact, Mike credits Gene for “leading me to salvation” in that time.

Both Mike and Shane used the words giving spirit repeatedly when describing Gene.

“Loved his family. Loved others. Would do anything he could for you,” Bates said.

That giving spirit could be seen through his last moments.

If you think back to Christmas Eve, dangerous roads might come to mind. Shane explained his sister was trying to get home, but couldn’t due to traffic issues. So, she called her dad. Gene was on his way. Shane said his father parked as close as he could to his sister then started walking in her direction.

That’s when it happened.

Witnesses told investigators they saw a white pickup truck hit him and drive away.

“Him leaving this world serving in that way with my sister is just a sweet testimony to the guy he is,” Shane added.

While he wants to know who was driving that night, and more information about what happened leading up to his father’s death, Shane is still able to extend grace to the person behind the wheel.

“There’s two difficult sides to that. There’s obviously the hurt of us losing my dad, and we’ll walk through that, but there’s not any real anger here because I can’t imagine what it would be like to be driving that truck on Christmas Eve,” he said.

While it hasn’t been easy, their family is relying on the hope the driver will be known and on the faith that Gene is in a better place.

Gene’s pastor and brother-in-law, Tim Parker, also mentioned Mynatt’s willingness to serve family, his church, and others. “Everyone he crossed paths with,” Parker said, “knew if they called and asked him for something, he would be there.”

Ralph Tallent, a friend to Mynatt, wrote, in part, “If you needed anything, he would be there for you. He put God first, then his family, then his friends and country. He was a Vietnam War veteran. … I am proud to have known Gene Mynatt (other wise known as Potsy).”

If you know anything that could help in the investigation, you’re asked to call THP’s Knoxville dispatch center at 865-544-3380.

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