HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A nonprofit search and recovery group plans to reinvigorate the ground search for missing Hawkins County 5-year-old Summer Wells this weekend.
With roughly 20 professional searchers coming to the Beech Creek community this weekend, the Equusearch Midwest organization hopes to find Summer or at least some clue as to where the 5-year-old might be.
As a nonprofit, the group does ask the public for donations.
“The public in Hawkins County, they’ve been very, very generous with donations for food and waters and Gatorade and stuff like that, the donations that our organization receives; we use those towards our lodging expenses, you know, gas,” said Twila Sisco, search coordinator for Equusearch Midwest.
She said the group comes from several states including Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee.
“Our members come from all over and some of them travel, you know, six, seven, and eight hours to get to our searches depending on where we’re at. So those donations go towards that, and anything that we may need for a search,” she added.
Sisco told News Channel 11 that a search like this can take a toll, even on professionally trained searchers.
“We have some very very good members on our team and they stay very, very motivated, they pour their hearts out into every single search, and you know we treat our searches of the missing people as if they’re one of our family members and we go in there and you know we stay focused on what our purpose is and our purpose is, is to do everything that we possibly can for the families of the missing and find that missing person,” she said.
Using searchers on foot, utility vehicles drones, and even technology like sonar, Equusearch Midwest members hope to find something in the fields and forests of the Beech Creek community leading to Summer Wells.
Sisco said crews will begin searching at dawn and leaders in the organization will make the call when efforts are to be suspended. She said they typically stop searching at night, especially in dangerous terrain.
“The terrain in that area up there is very very dangerous, and we encourage like the public to not even try to go out there and search because we can assure you that law enforcement is doing everything they possibly can, and the teams that are trained properly, You know, they go out and they do these searches and it’s very dangerous out there.”
Having done over 30 similar searches since 2012, Equusearch teams hope to use their honed skills to find Summer, but they say that’s not all it’s about.
“We just try to do everything we possibly can, you know, to help get closure for families or to even let the families know that we do care, and we want them to know that there are people out there that truly do care,” Sisco said.
She added that though donations are welcomed, it’s not the end of the world if no donations are received.
“When we do this, you know, even if we don’t have donations. We still go and we do this and we take money out of our own pocket to be able to do this, like the money issue, that that’s not even a big deal, that doesn’t even come to our mind whatsoever,” Sisco said.
News Channel 11 will follow the search for Summer Wells over the weekend both online and on-air.
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.
CONTINUING COVERAGE: The Search for Summer Wells