Search for Summer Wells highlights recurring Hawkins Co. communications issues

Search for Summer Wells

ROGERSVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Tuesday, July 20 marks five weeks since the disappearance of five-year-old Summer Wells. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says they’ve received 1,020 tips in relation to the AMBER Alert.

A midwest rescue group will return to the region again this weekend to search for the little girl. But, initially, rescue crews faced several challenges during the massive ground search in the Beech Creek community.

Even before Summer Wells’ disappearance- the radio systems and lack of cell service were hot button issues in Hawkins County. Some people there even reported not being able to reach 911 and first responders not being able to communicate with each other at times.

As the search for Summer expanded, those issues were highlighted and even brought up during press conferences from law enforcement and search leaders. The operations on the ground have been a topic for county officials in several different meetings. How those issues impacted that ground search is expected to dominate the conversation Wednesday at a public safety committee meeting.

“The only thing that hindered search operations at the start the first several days was radio communications. But I can say, with the assistance of Washington County, Sullivan County, and assistance of the state bringing in a TACN Mobile repeater,” Capt. Tim Coup said in an interview with News Channel 11 last week. “Beforehand, there’s no way we could have done the search operations and covered the amount of ground we covered with the peace of mind knowing that if something happened, the command structure could get them help until that radio system was there.”

While there have been issues for years, in December 2019, the radio system failed. After that, those who used the radio systems reported clicking and static noises.

“We will continue to push to get these things, and no matter what if this county receives that stuff, the county receives extra funding,” said Coup. “We will continue to provide what services we provide now.”

Neither the Public Safety Committee Chair nor the County’s EMA Director was available for an interview Tuesday.

The search for Summer Wells is not an agenda item for Wednesday’s meeting, but it is expected to come up in directors’ reports. That meeting is at 3 p.m. in the Commission Room at the Hawkins County Courthouse.

Summer Wells was first reported missing from her family’s home in the Beech Creek community on June 15, and an Amber Alert was issued by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation the following day. As the search for Summer continues, anyone with any information regarding her whereabouts is asked to call 1-800-TBI-FIND.

Investigators say they are still searching for the driver of a red or maroon Toyota Tacoma with a full bed ladder rack with white buckets in the back. It was seen in the area around the time Summer went missing. They are continuing to stress that this person could be a witness and is not considered a suspect.

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