Family: Memphis couple dead after Gatlinburg wildfire; 3 sons hospitalized

Summers family (source: Family via WKRN)
Summers family (source: Family via WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN/WATE) – Family members say a Memphis couple missing after the wildfires in Sevier County have been confirmed dead, Their three sons remain hospitalized.

Lisa Pirie says her brother, Jon Summers, and his wife Janet went missing after their Thanksgiving weekend vacation in the area. Jon Summers’ brother Jim posted on Facebook the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department confirmed their deaths Thursday evening.

“I am sorry to report that a 4:45 pm CST the Sevier County Sheriff’s department has reported that the Medical Examiner has confirmed that two of the bodies found in North Chalet Village were Jon and Janet Summers. Their 3 sons are aware. Your prayers are appreciated…” wrote Jim Summers in the post. The couple’s passing was confirmed by Sevier County officials on Friday.

More coverage: Smoky Mountains wildfires

The couple’s three children, Wesley, Branson, and Jared, are all hospitalized at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in critical but stable condition. All three live in Nashville.

Dr. Blair Summit, Medical Director of Vanderbilt’s burn unit, told media on Friday each suffered burns to their face and hand, while Wesley also suffered burns to his arms.

Both Wesley and Jared remain in the hospital in stable condition and are expected to have surgery this Monday to remove the burns and possibly undergo skin grafts.

Dr. Summit said he anticipates the two will be released from the hospital late next week or the following Monday.

Jared has already been released and only had burns to 2 percent of body.

As for the news that their parents passed, their uncle said he received the call from the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday and requested the boys be put in the same hospital room so he could deliver the news. Summers then struggled to finish his words as he was overcome with grief.

Jim Summers explained how the brothers made it out of the fire.

“Apparently the fire, it came up so fast, it blew the fire from Chimney Mountain, which is some distance away, and they were in a valley, they were on ski mountain, so they couldn’t really see what was over there, but they were getting all the ash,” Summers explained.

“People in Chattanooga and north Georgia and all over East Tennessee had smog and smoke and ash, and it had nothing to do with anything other than the fact that wind was blowing and all this stuff was going on in the fires,” he continued.

“So when they call to evacuate… they began packing up to go, they got in Branson’s vehicle… they made it as far down the road a ways, and then a tree had fallen across the road and couldn’t go any further, so they got out of the car and somehow they got separated.

“And then after that, we don’t know,” Summers said.

“Quite frankly how the kids got down the mountain is a movie in and of itself,” he added. “They went through walls of fire. The entire road, on both sides of the road, and they had to run through it all the way to the bottom of the mountain.”

“According to the sheriff, it was several miles that they ran, and it’s my understanding they were found unconscious when they made it to the bottom of the mountain,” he concluded.

A crowdfunding effort has been started for the Summers family. Click here to donate.

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