Rescue member: Pressure tightens as search for Summer Wells persists

Search for Summer Wells

Summer’s mother, Candus Wells, shared new photos of her daughter Monday. (Photos: Candus Wells)

HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — As search crews reach 13 days of combing through treacherous terrain to find missing 5-year-old Summer Wells, one team member told News Channel 11 the unusual case is beginning to hit close to home.

Jeff Wadley is on the Backcountry Unit Search and Rescue team with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

He’s one of hundreds of rescuers who continue searching for Summer, who was last seen on June 15 in the Beech Creek community of Hawkins County.

While the search has scaled back, Wadley said as more time passes, the more pressure there is to find Summer.

“You question yourself,” he said. “Have I done all I can do?”

Thick underbrush, steep drops and rock crevices further complicate the mission. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has followed up on over 500 leads — all of which have led to no solid answers as to the whereabouts of Summer.

“When a search like this for Summer does not have an immediate resolution … There’s all kinds of emotions about that,” Wadley said.

It’s tough getting to the very end of a search and not having that resolution. The family wants resolution; the public wants resolution. Those folks that are searching, the people that are in charge of the searches — we all want resolution.

Jeff Wadley, Backcountry Unit Search and Rescue

In his 43 years on a search team, Wadley said there are only a handful of cases that persist longer than a couple of days.

“Most all the searches that I participated in, we have had resolution,” he said. “There are several cases, though, that I’ve worked that are heartbreaking because you don’t have a resolution.”

The search team member said that although emotions are heightening as Summer remains missing, this search can set a higher standard for future missions.

“What happens is people who are in search and rescue will end up becoming better searchers because of this search,” Wadley said. “We are so determined to find Summer.”

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reports Summer’s appearance as follows:

  • Age: 5
  • Sex: Female
  • Race: White
  • Hair: Blonde Eyes: Blue
  • Height: 3′
  • Weight: 40 lbs.
  • NCIC: M476287498
  • Missing From: Rogersville, Tennessee
  • Missing Since: June 15, 2021

Anyone with information regarding Wells’ whereabouts is urged to call 1-800-TBI-FIND.

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